The Dodgers, according to an interesting piece of scuttlebutt from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, are “considering” adding a starting pitcher via the trade market, and sources have indicated that Marcus Stroman is among their leading targets. According to this report, the team would transfer a current starter to the bullpen if they acquired someone of Stroman’s ilk, thereby circumventing the trade market’s lack of high-impact relief options.
However, the Dodgers may not be able to get their hands on the diminutive righty–at least not if the Astros have anything to say about the matter. According to a separate tweet from Rosenthal, the Astros are “mounting a push” for a Stroman acquisition. Their eagerness toward such a move is said to be motivated, in part, by a reluctance to meet New York’s asking price for Noah Syndergaard.
At this point, rehashing the relative merits of Stroman seems like a bit of a Sisyphean task: we know that the Toronto-grown pitcher is enjoying a nice 2019 season (3.52 FIP in 124.2 innings); we know, also, that he is rebounding from a somewhat fluky run of poor results in 2018 (5.54 ERA vs. 3.91 FIP in 102.1 innings last year); and, alas, we understand that he is earning an eminently affordable sum of $7.4MM this year, with a fourth and final year of arbitration control remaining in 2020.
What is more germane to the conversation here is the insight offered into the trade deadline strategy of two respectively powerful clubs. The Dodgers, an organization never unwilling to stockpile big league depth, would add Stroman to a largely effective mix of pitchers; on the year, their starters have logged a 4.02 ERA–good enough for ninth in the bigs in this homer-happy 2019. However, adding a durable arm like Stroman, as noted above, would allow them to circuitously improve their bullpen. Kenta Maeda, for one, was an interesting option out of the bullpen last year and could shift there once more; alternatively, the Dodgers could choose to simply rest the powerful-yet-young right arm of one Walker Buehler in a gear-up for the postseason. Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Stroman, and Ross Stripling would certainly make for an extremely intimidating playoff staff.
The Astros, meanwhile, have been involved in rotation-centric trade rumors for quite some time, despite their staff’s fourth-ranked 3.79 collective ERA. This news, as much as anything, gives further credence to the idea that New York is mounting sky-high demands for Syndergaard, and that teams like Houston may begin shifting attention to Stroman as a more cost-friendly alternative. Adding Stroman would obviously be a coup for any postseason-seeking squad, and one has to wonder if the Astros’ strong interest isn’t spurred partly by an interest in 2020. With Gerrit Cole looming on the precipice of free agency, the club may be looking to shore up its potential for this year and beyond.