The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly emerged as the favorite to re-sign David Price. If that is truly the case, the next order of business for the Blue Jays should be locking up Price’s second-in-command, Marcus Stroman. Stroman, 24, is coming off a 2015 season that saw him defy the odds to return from an ACL injury suffered in Spring Training. The diminutive right-hander managed to return for four starts at the end of the year, and also made three good starts in the postseason. Through the first 30 games of his big league career, Stroman is 15-6 with a 3.31 ERA. Thanks to his power sinker/slider combination, Stroman has allowed only nine home runs in 157.2 innings, while limiting walks to less than 2.0 per nine innings.
The Blue Jays do not have another long-term option in the starting rotation, assuming Price re-signs. Marco Estrada was brought back on a two-year deal, R.A. Dickey‘s contract expires after the 2016 season, and the fifth spot is still up in the air. The Blue Jays have a good deal of capital tied up in Jose Bautista, Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki. By the time those more expensive deals are up, the Blue Jays will also be paying Josh Donaldson top dollar. The time to lock up Stroman to a team-friendly deal is now.
Stroman showed the Blue Jays enough in battling back to get on the mound this season. His injury should have kept him out the entire season, but Stroman rehabbed aggressively, while getting a degree from Duke University, no less. The amount of character that Stroman showed this year is staggering. Although Stroman has made only 24 starts in the Major Leagues, he has shown enough to warrant an extension that will buy up his arbitration years and at least a year or two of free agency.
Another small right-hander, Yordano Ventura, could provide a template for the Blue Jays when it comes to giving Stroman an extension. The Kansas City Royals locked up their young ace last spring after only 33 total regular-season starts. Ventura was impressive in the 2014 postseason, and nearly pitched the Royals to a title. But for Madison Bumgarner, Ventura could have been the World Series MVP. The Royals now have Ventura on a five-year deal worth only a guaranteed $23 million, with options valued at $12 million for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the first two years Ventura would have been eligible to test the open market. All in all, the Royals have the potential to have Ventura in their rotation for seven years and $47 million. They can decline the last two years of his deal for $1 million per season if they so choose.
A five-year extension for Stroman would carry him right up to free agency. The early years of the extension would pay Stroman above what the Blue Jays could pay him pre-arbitration, but the last few years would be well below market value. In the final year of his extension, Ventura will make $9.95 million, likely well below what an arbitration panel would award him if his performance stays at the same level. Stroman would fall into the same boat, but has even less experience and bargaining power than Ventura did last year. Given a full 30 starts next season to increase his value, the Blue Jays may find it harder or most costly to lock up their number two.
First order of business for the Blue Jays when it comes to starting pitching over the rest of the offseason — re-sign David Price. Second order of business — extend Marcus Stroman while he can still be had at a bargain basement price.