DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
As Free agency begins it is increasingly apparent that the state of the starting pitching market is dire. Free agent pitching is severely lacking. The Atlanta Braves paid 20.5 million for two starters with a combined age of 85. The Houston Astros paid multiple years and a 7 million average annual value for Charlie Morton, who pitched just 17.1 innings last season and who had a 4.85 ERA in 2014. To summarize, the market lacks arms. There is a ever growing demand for starting pitching, but a supply which is almost zero.
Of course there are a few arms. Ivan Nova pitched to a 3.18 ERA in the second half, Jason Hammel started every fifth day for the world series champion Chicago Cubs, Rich Hill was good whenever his blister was acting up. But if this is the cream of the crop than the market is severely limited. There is no David Price, or Johnny Cueto, or Jordan Zimmerman, or even a Jeff Samardzija. As a result trades are going to happen. Rumors say Chris Sale, or Chris Archer, or a variety of other arms are available for a heavy price. Perhaps the Jays should throw one of their starters into the conversation. The return will be at its highest point in the foreseeable future and the team has Joe Biagini whose stuff leads me to believe that his upside is far greater in the rotation than the bullpen.
But who should the team trade. With five solid starters and a young reliever waiting in the wings, the team does have a decision to make regarding who to ship out. Given the choice and considering the potential returns, I would trade Marcus Stroman. I am not suggesting that the Jays will trade their young star, but I believe that the returns could be incredible. Perhaps the team could trade a package headlined by Stroman for Adam Eaton AND a reliever such as David Robertson or Dan Jennings. Stroman could net such a return because he is a young controllable starter and his demonstrated skills which have shown to be incredible. Plus he's been incredibly consistent with the exception of only June 2016. In Eaton the Jays would acquire a 6 WAR outfielder, who could replace one of their departing free agents and a reliever who could replace Biagini and allow him to move to the starting rotation. The Jays could also trade Stroman to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Joey Votto. The Reds had a dreadful rotation and would welcome Stroman to headline their starting staff even if the cost was a player with the caliber of Joey Votto. With either trade or maybe another I haven't thought of, the Jays could acquire incredible talent for the young righty. His value may never be higher due to his youth and the lack of other potential options on the market.
But Stroman is just one factor. The other is Joe Biagini. As a reliever, Biagini pitcher 67.2 innings of 3.04 ERA ball. He was also one of the few relievers John Gibbons trusted throughout the season, and provided the team with some crucial innings at many points last season. Biagini will succeed as a starter for many reasons, the biggest of which is his starters stuff. With four good pitches and three which he used at least 17% of the time, he has the repertoire to be successful. Biagini also did a good job keeping runners off base, with a 2.53 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.30. In addition he pitched multiple innings frequently, and also has substantial success as a starter in AA (2.42 ERA in 130.1 IP). He was also good at limiting home runs, with just a 26.3 FB% and a 23.0 Hard Contact%. So, Joe Biagini has what it takes to be a good starter.
If I'm being honest, none of this is going to happen. Stroman is too important to the club, and Biagini likely needs some time to be stretched out before becoming a full time starter. But this is an interesting question, and the Jays should consider making this move regardless of the reaction of the fanbase, or the players. Don't worry Stroman fans, everything I said probably won't happen, but the Jays at least have to think about it.