Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman and Rangers lefty Mike Minor have been among the most popular names in the rumor mill in advance of the July 31 trade deadline. All three are quality starters who are under control through 2020, so a slew of contenders have predictably shown serious interest in each of them. But who’s the most desirable of the trio?
Perhaps it’s the 28-year-old Bauer, who started his major league career in 2012 with the Diamondbacks. The third pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer was something of a can’t-miss prospect coming up. It took him longer than expected to find his footing in the majors, though, and it didn’t happen in Arizona. It occurred in Cleveland, which acquired Bauer in a three-team trade prior to the 2013 season. Bauer was a useful starter with the Indians from his first full season in 2014 through 2017, but he truly put it all together last year. Across 175 1/3 innings, Bauer notched a 2.21 ERA/2.44 FIP with 11.34 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9 en route to a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young voting.
Bauer probably won’t wind up in Cy Young contention this season, though he has turned in another above-average performance. No major league starter has amassed more innings than Bauer, who has delivered 144 2/3 frames of 3.67 ERA/4.29 FIP pitching with 10.58 K/9 against 3.48 BB/9. But home runs have been a major problem for Bauer compared to last year, when he yielded them on just 6.2 percent of fly balls. The rate has shot to 15.2 this season, while Bauer’s groundball percentage has shrunk from 44.5 to 38.5. He is, however, averaging a personal-best 94.8 mph on his four-seam fastball.
Stroman, also 28, has never encountered trouble racking up grounders in the majors. Since debuting in 2014, Stroman has posted a tremendous 59.7 percent grounder rate, including 57.9 this year. The ability to induce worm burners has long made Stroman effective at preventing runs, even though he’s hardly a strikeout-heavy pitcher. Stroman has fanned just over seven per nine in his career and this season, and has also logged a sub-3.00 BB/9 during those spans. The package of skills has helped Stroman to a praiseworthy 3.06 ERA/3.60 FIP in 117 2/3 innings this season.
Minor, 31, fared nicely as a Braves starter from 2010-14, but injuries knocked his career off course thereafter and kept him out of action from 2015-16. When he returned the next season with the Royals, Minor was a reliever – and an excellent one at that. But after signing a three-year, $28MM contract with the Rangers going into 2018, he returned to a starting role. The results were closer to average than exceptional then, though Minor has made notable strides since. His ERA’s an outstanding 2.86, albeit with a less inspiring 4.08 FIP, in 129 innings. Minor fanned 10 Astros and walked one in seven innings of a losing effort Friday, improving his K/9 to 9.14 and his BB/9 to 3.14. Although Minor hurt his cause by allowing four home runs, he has generally kept the long ball at bay this season.
It’s clear Bauer, Stroman and Minor are all appealing starters, but one can’t simply compare their performances when talking about them as trade candidates. Their salaries also play a key part in the discussion. Bauer’s easily the most expensive of the group this year ($13MM) and could end up in the $18MM to $20MM range during his final trip to arbitration over the winter. Minor comes in next at $9.5MM, but another $9.5MM salary is already etched in stone for 2020. Stroman’s making $7.4MM this season, though he’ll certainly join Bauer in getting a raise in his last year of arbitration.
Weighing all the factors – performance, age, price and what you think each would cost in a trade – which of these hurlers would you most want to acquire in the next week and a half?
(Poll link for app users)