Marcus Stroman Is A Better Option Than Trevor Bauer
Steve Cohen has agreed to purchase the New York Mets and his approval as the new owner is all but a formality. In that vein, Cohen has already set off to work hiring Sandy Alderson, looking to beef up the analytics department, and announcing al employees will receive full pay starting November 1.
This is a great start, but Cohen needs to pay attention to his roster. To that end, Marcus Stroman is a pending free agent, and the Mets have a window for exclusive negotiating rights with him.
Locking up Stroman is of vital importance for a few reasons. Chief among those is the sorry state of this starting rotation.
Even with David Peterson having a solid rookie season, the only starter the Mets can realistically rely upon in 2021 is Jacob deGrom. Ultimately, the Mets have a lot of difficult decisions to make rounding out the rest of the rotation.
At some point, they may get Noah Syndergaard back next year. In looking at that, it’s important to remember Syndergaard is a pending free agent, and the Mets don’t have the best history of getting pitchers back from Tommy John.
That leaves the Mets searching for a number two for next year and the ensuing seasons. Given how Brodie Van Wagenen needlessly ravaged the Mets farm system, that starter isn’t coming through the farm system. That leaves free agency.
Looking at free agency, there are only two starters who fill this need. The first is Stroman, and the other is Trevor Bauer. Now, Bauer is coming off a Cy Young caliber (shortened) season, but you can still make the case Stroman is the better option.
In Bauer’s career, he’s only had two very good seasons. That’s this shortened season and 2018. Sandwiched between them was a very uneven 2019 where he was more good than bad.
Over this three year stretch, Bauer is 28-23 with a 3.18 ERA, 144 ERA+, and a 3.38 FIP. Overall, he has had a 9.6 WAR over this stretch.
Now, Stroman didn’t pitch this year due to family concerns. This makes his most recent three year stretch 2017 – 2019. Over that stretch, Stroman was 27-31 with a 3.65 ERA, 120 ERA+, and a 3.83 FIP. Overall, he had a 10.0 WAR over that stretch.
Looking at the baseline numbers, you might be inclined to surmise Bauer was clearly the better of the two. While an understandable presumption, lost in that was their respective levels of competition.
Stroman pitched in the AL East for the vast majority of his three year stretch whereas Bauer pitched in both Central divisions.
Looking at the 2017 – 2020 time period, Stroman has faced far superior competition.
Over this time span, the Yankees (2), Rays (6), and Red Sox (7) were all in the top 10 in wRC+. He did have an easier time with the Orioles who were 22nd in that time frame.
The problem with that from Bauer’s perspective is when you compare the two, he regularly faced three offenses WORSE than the Orioles. Those offenses were the Pirates (23), Royals (25), and Tigers (28).
Yes, the Twins (5) have had a good offense during this stretch. After them, the next best offense Bauer faced was the Cubs at 10th. The problem there is Bauer got to routinely face them when the Cubs were terrible offensively. In fact, much of his 2020 campaign was spent beating up horrendous offensive teams.
Bauer’s 2020 opponents and their offensive rankings
Tigers (2) – 91 wRC+ (24th)
Brewers (3) – 92 wRC+ (21st)
Royals – 89 wRC+ (25th)
Cubs (2) – 91 wRC+ (23rd)
Pirates (2) – 68 wRC+ (29th)
White Sox – 118 wRC+ (5th)
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) September 24, 2020
Look, there’s value in the ability to beat bad teams. From what we’ve seen from Bauer, he can also beat good offensive ballclubs. After all he pitched well against the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card Series.
Still, if you’re going to sign a pitcher to a big contract, you want it to be the guy who’s proven to pitch at an All Star level while consistently facing superior offensive teams. That’s clearly Stroman.
There’s another factor too. We have already seen Stroman be able to handle New York and the big stage. He did it as a visitor with the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s done it in the postseason and WBC. He’s also handled it well as a member of the Mets.
Once Stroman inks a deal, you know the pressures of being a Met are not going to get to him. We don’t know that with Bauer. He may thrive here. He may wilt. With his social media presence, he may very well do both.
Taking that and everything into account, Stroman should be the Mets priority, and the team should use their exclusive window to sign him to an extension. It’ll give them a number two starter for years to come. It will also give them a quality pitcher they know can handle this stage.