It’s nice to have a deep bullpen and electric offense, but if you don’t have reliable and consistent starting pitching — or at least two starters who check off those boxes — you’re not going to win the World Series. Case in point: The Milwaukee Brewers should trade for Marcus Stroman.
At 37-28, the Brewers sit tied with the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central. Fresh off a season that saw them come one game short of reaching the World Series, the Brewers have the talent to repeat as division champions and make a run at the NL pennant.
Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award recipient Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, and Ryan Braun, among others, form one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. Josh Hader, Junior Guerra, Matt Albers, and Jeremy Jeffress, among others, form one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. However, these two assets continue to mask the Brewers’ need for dominant starting pitching.
Jhoulys Chacin, who was the Brewers ace last season, owns a 5.74 ERA in 12 starts and was recently placed on the injured list with a back injury; Freddy Peralta owns a 5.11 ERA in the 11 appearances he has made, seven of which have been starts; Corbin Burnes, who served as a primary reliever before 2019, owns a 9.50 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 18 appearances, four of which have been starts; after making six starts, left-hander Gio Gonzalez suffered an arm injury.
The bright spots have been Zach Davies, who owns an impressive 2.41 ERA in 13 starts after a discouraging 2018 season, and Brandon Woodruff, who has adjusted to being a primary starter. With that said, Milwaukee starting pitching went into their Saturday afternoon matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates 19th in Major League Baseball in ERA (4.60) and 23rd in opponent batting average (.267). Meanwhile, they went into the afternoon 24th in innings pitched (319.0).
The Brewers are an accurate depiction of the future of baseball, when it comes to the management of their pitching staff. They shuffle their pitchers, toy with bullpen days, and are a staff that heavily relies on the backend of its bullpen. However, manager Craig Counsell has just two pitchers who have started every game they’ve pitched this season (Chacin, Gonzalez), which is extremely disturbing (Jimmy Nelson has made just one appearance this season). We can debate the merits of whether bullpen days, or pulling starters the second time through an order is effective, but if you don’t have pitchers who are consistently taking the hill every fifth day, that’s an issue.
If the Brewers had top-flight, or better starting pitching, they would be the clear-cut best team in their division and have an argument for being the best team in the NL. Acquiring Stroman would get them closer to both of those goals.
After a lackluster 2018 campaign, low-lighted by injuries and inconsistency, Stroman has returned to being the ace-caliber pitcher the Toronto Blue Jays are accustomed to. He owns a 3.31 ERA, is pitching with the swagger they’re used to, and producing at an elite level.
Stroman is a deceptive pitcher. He thrives on catching hitters off guard, has a violent delivery, and a deep arsenal. While he generally leans on his sinker and slider, Stroman also utilizes a cutter and changeup. Granted he puts a lot of runners on base, Stroman has shown an ability to overcome adversity and work out of trouble.
And while he’s not a pitcher who’s going to generally finish an outing with double-digit strikeouts, Stroman keeps hitters guessing with his array of offerings — and that can, in theory, keep his pitch count down.
He also has five postseason outings under his belt, so when the big moment presents itself, it won’t be anything he hasn’t seen before. For a deep Brewers bullpen, all they would need is for him to consistently get through the sixth inning. And in the postseason they likely wouldn’t let him pitch deep into games anyway.
Regardless of whether a team embraces relying on its bullpen, you need a premier, or elite starting pitcher. There’s not a team in baseball who relies on its pen more than the Tampa Bay Rays, but they also have the 2018 American League Cy Young Award recipient in Blake Snell, as well as one of the best right-handers in the sport in Charlie Morton. While they have also rolled with some bullpen days, the New York Yankees have James Paxton and, if he pitches this season, Luis Severino.
Stroman, Davies, Woodruff, and a healthy Chacin would be an intriguing rotation in October; the Brewers could also mix a bullpen day into the mix.
Fortunately for the Brewers, they’ve only made one blockbuster trade in recent memory, that being acquiring Yelich from the Miami Marlins, so they have enough assets to execute a deal for the Blue Jays right-hander. With Stroman hitting the open market after 2020, they shouldn’t have to surrender the king’s ransom to pull off a deal, albeit it will still likely cost them some top prospects.
The Brewers’ competition is stiff; the Cubs are deep around the diamond and recently signed Craig Kimbrel to anchor the backend of their pen; the St. Louis Cardinals have been hovering around .500, but have the talent to turn their season around; the Philadelphia Phillies have the bats to score 10 runs in any given game; the Atlanta Braves have an electric lineup and recently signed Dallas Keuchel to add depth to their starting rotation; the Los Angeles Dodgers have no weakness and are firing on all cylinders; the Colorado Rockies, who have a potent offense, are righting the ship.
Stroman would be the most proven arm in the Brewers starting rotation from the get-go and a huge get that would turn the tide in the NL.