NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Marcus Stroman wouldn’t say it outright, but it was hard to interpret his words any other way.
He’d welcome a trade to the Yankees in a heartbeat.
With the Toronto Blue Jays in the midst of a significant rebuild and Stroman arbitration eligible at season’s end, the ace right-hander figures to be one of the bigger-name pitchers to be unloaded before the July 31 trade deadline.
And, as most everyone around baseball knows, the Yankees are expected to be add at least one top-end arm to a rotation that’s had several moments of pause this season despite the team’s first place standing and overall 50-28 record.
Stroman, who recently turned 28 and attended Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island, spoke glowingly about New York City prior to the Yankees’ 10-8 win over the Blue Jays on Monday. He stopped just short of saying he wants to be traded to the Bombers specifically, though it wasn’t hard to read between the lines.
“New York is like the mecca of the world,” Stroman said. “I love the excitement, I love the bright lights, I love competition, I love pressure, so I’ve always loved pitching here. Even if I haven’t necessarily pitched fairly well here, I’ve always enjoyed it. … I love the spotlight. The bigger the moment, that’s kind of where I’ve always wanted to be.”
The diminutive right-hander — who stands just 5-foot-7, but is a solidly built 180 pounds — is pitching much better than his record suggests this season. Stroman is just 5-9, but his 3.04 ERA ranks ninth in the AL, better than any current Yankees starter. Masahiro Tanaka is 10th at 3.21.
Stroman has been especially good of late, pitching to a 1.89 ERA over his last three starts, and has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of his last nine outings. If not for the fact that the Blue Jays are among the worst hitting teams in the majors, Stroman would likely have the numbers to be among the better pitchers in baseball.
He said there’s nothing about the Bronx that intimidates him.
“I’m built for this,” Stroman said. “Anybody can say whatever, but I’m built for the bright lights. I’m not scared of it. I’ve never been. I take that ball each and every time with the pressure on. I love it.”
The Yankees could certainly use a pitcher like that as they pursue their first World Series appearance since winning their last championship, in 2009. Only Tanaka, who is just 5-5, has been even remotely consistent.
Ace Luis Severino has yet to throw a pitch this season due to shoulder and lat injuries and is not expected back until after the All-Star break, and would likely need several starts before he could be considered someone the Yankees can rely on in October. His replacement, Domingo German, is currently sidelined with a left hip flexor strain, but could return to the rotation before the break, manager Aaron Boone has said.
James Paxton, who has pitched better of late, is dealing with a knee problem that has already cost him some time on the injured list and will likely continue to be an issue for the rest of the season in some form, Boone added.
Veteran J.A. Happ may be 7-4, but his 5.23 ERA tells another story entirely. The 36-year-old southpaw has given up 20 home runs, which is tied for fifth most in the majors, and is coming off a brutal outing against Houston on Sunday in which he allowed eight earned runs and 11 hits, including three homers, in just four innings in a 9-4 defeat.
CC Sabathia, who has said he will retire at season’s end, has been a gamer at 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA, but odds are good the Yankees won’t want to run the soon-to-be 39-year-old lefty out there in a big spot in the postseason.
So Stroman, who has a 3.80 ERA over 131 career appearances, including 125 starts, sits as a deadline possibility for the Yankees, who also have had reported interest in San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, among others.
“My track record speaks for itself at this point,” Stroman said. “I compete, get a lot of ground balls and I get strikeouts when I need them.”