The Seattle Mariners should be one of the biggest buyers on the free agent market this offseason, so it stands to reason that they would be linked with Marcus Stroman, one of the top free agent pitchers in this class.
But this week it seems current M’s are making a rather public bid for the powerful right-hander’s talent:
My dawg! Unreal year for you. Love what y’all got going on up there. Let’s see how this all plays out. I can’t wait to compete wherever it may be!— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) November 24, 2021
Mariners mouthpiece Jon Morosi capitalized on the flurry of conversation Sewald and Stroman’s exchange incited, though it’s worth noting (again) that the careful phrasing of the tweet offers literally nothing concrete beyond the fact that the Mariners (a team looking to buy free agents) are possibly in the market for Marcus Stroman (a free agent).
Not to be left out of anything juicy, J.P. Crawford chimed in to affirm Sewald’s #SeaUsRise enthusiasm. Crawford has also been active in participating in Stroman’s HDMH Foundation fundraisers and clinics, so the two are well connected.
I agree with the both of y’all. I’m open. For real! I guess we’ll see if your front office is on the same page. Happy Thanksgiving to both of y’all and your families. Sending you all the blessings!— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) November 25, 2021
As we must with everything online, take Stroman’s reply with a grain of salt here. He’s not exactly putting Dipoto’s feet directly to the fire, but he’s cranking up that space heater for sure.
Of all of the starting pitchers available, Stroman might represent the lowest risk. He’s a complete pitcher, flexing a five-pitch repertoire with one of the most robust seam-shifted wake profiles in MLB. He leans most heavily on an extremely heavy sinker that allows him to generate a lot of ground balls and weak contact.
Something that Stroman offers more than any other free agent targets at starting pitcher is that he’s been just about as consistent and durable as they come. Aside from a torn ACL in 2015 and some minor injuries in 2018, Stroman hasn’t missed much time, and he’s been a lock for about 3.5 fWAR in each of those seasons. Stroman is known for being prideful of how well he takes care of his body, and it seems that it pays dividends: even after Stroman tore his ACL injury he was back on the mound within six months of his surgery.
According to Steamer, Stroman is projected for the eighth-highest fWAR in 2022 out of all of the starting pitchers who entered free agency. That might not seem overly exciting, but Stroman is a decent bet to exceed those projections, and he’s also projected for the eighth-highest average annual value (AAV) on his contract, via FanGraphs’ crowdsource. That works out pretty well.
Stroman isn’t dissimilar in terms of production from Eduardo Rodriguez, who got five years and $77 million, which makes for a $15.4 million AAV. Given his combination of a longer track record and more upside, I figure that Stroman will get at least $20 million a year, over at least four years. Given that Rodriguez got five years, we might see him pick the team that’s willing to give him that fifth year.
There’s room to grow, too. As I (Mikey) wrote about Noah Syndergaard, Stroman is versatile enough that he can succeed in several different ways. His four-seamer — which he hardly uses — grades out pretty well by zone-neutral vertical approach angle, meaning he could probably add a lot of whiffs by emphasizing his four-seamer and de-emphasizing his sinker. But also, Stroman isn’t using the best weapon in his arsenal. Stroman’s slider usage was 22.8 percent this past year, down from 30.4 and 30.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. If he were to lean on those more, he could add a lot of strikeouts and remove some of the variance that plays a role in his batted ball outcomes.
Glaring holes in their lineup have prompted the majority of Mariners’ free agent speculation to circulate around names like Bryant, Semien, and Canha, with pitching target rumors coming by trade. But Marcus Stroman, Seattle Mariner could well be an ideal fit for both parties. The M’s get a reliable starter with ace-level upside and a “veteran presence”, while Stroman gets the opportunity to help play hero, break a 20-plus year drought, and become a Seattle legend (oh yeah, and get paid millions). In years past, it would have seemed impossibly greedy to fathom multiple big free agent signings, but this season it isn’t just possible but imperative. Seattle has the funds, it’s just a matter of anteing up.