Marcus Stroman

From BR Bullpen

Marcus Stroman.webp

Marcus Earl Stroman

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

The cousin of minor leaguer Erskine Kelley, Marcus Stroman was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 18th round of the 2009 amateur draft. He did not sign and opted to attend Duke University instead, where he spent time as an infielder in addition to pitching. He was then chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft with the 22nd overall pick. He signed for a $1.8 million bonus and made his pro debut on July 12th with the Vancouver Canadians. However, his first outing was rough, as he allowed 3 earned runs over 2/3 of an inning versus Boise. Things went better in further outings, however, and he finished the year at 3-0, 3.26 in 15 games, having earned a promotion to the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats after 7 outings. He only pitched in relied that season, logging 19 1/3 innings.

In 2013, he was a full-time starter at New Hampshire, going 9-5, 3.30 in 20 starts. He pitched 111 2/3 innings, allowing 99 hits and striking out 129 to confirm that he was on a fast track to the big leagues. Indeed, even though he started 2014 with the AAA Buffalo Bisons, he was called up to Toronto on May 4th, making his debut that day with two-thirds of an inning in relief against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing a run. He made five appearances out of the bullpen, giving up 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings, although he did earn his first big league win, before being sent back to Buffalo on May 15th in order to return to the more familiar role of starter. His next appearance in the big leagues was a one-off start against the Kansas City Royals on May 31st and finally got a chance to shine at the highest level. He gave up only one run in 6 innings to earn the win; after he had set down the Royals in order in the 1st, his teammates exploded for seven runs against Aaron Brooks, giving him a comfortable cushion. He allowed only 5 hits, walked none and struck out 6 in the 12-2 win. From that point on, he became the Jays' most dependable starter, with veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle finding it difficult to rack up wins. On July 24th, he kept the Boston Red Sox hitless for 6 innings before allowing a bloop single to Shane Victorino to lead off the 7th; he completed that inning with no further damage an relievers Todd Redmond and Rob Rasmussen added a hitless inning each for a combined one-hit 8-0 shutout win that improved his record to 6-2. He was handed a six-game suspension for throwing a pitch at the Baltimore Orioles' Caleb Joseph on September 15th, but after appealing the decision, he was able to defeat the New York Yankees, 6-3, on September 20th, to improve to 11-6. He dropped his appeal immediately after the game, and his suspension was reduced to five games by Major League Baseball, allowing him to make one final start before the end of the season. He finished the year with a record of 11-6, 3.65 in 26 games, including 20 starts, striking out 111 against only 28 walks in 130 2/3 innings.

Heading into the 2015 season, the Blue Jays were optimistic about breaking their 21-year postseason drought following some bold moves in the off-season, and they were counting on Marcus as one of the key members of the starting rotation. However things went awry when on March 10th, he tore ligaments in his knee during spring training fielding drills, apparently putting him out for the season. The Jays had a tremendous offense over the first half, but cruelly missed Stroman's presence in the starting rotation. While he was back at Duke taking some classes needed to complete his degree, he got in trouble with his professors by tweeting his enthusiasm from the classroom when he heard the Jays had made a big move at the trading deadline on July 30th and acquired top-notch starter David Price in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Undaunted, Marcus posted a picture of his sneaking a peek at Price's first start with the Jays on his cellphone, hidden behind his laptop screen while attending another class on August 3rd. Well ahead of schedule, he returned to the mound for a rehabilitation outing on September 2nd. He showed some very good stuff as he pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts, giving up no hits and a walk while striking out 7. A week later, he was called up to Toronto and penciled in to start a key match-up against the New York Yankees on September 12th. His return came in the second game of a doubleheader after the Jays had won the opener, and he was the beneficiary of an early lead as his teammates scored 6 runs in the 2nd. He kept the Yankees off the board until the 5th, when he allowed a three-run homer to Brett Gardner but was credited with the 10-7 win that put Toronto 4 1/2 games in front of the Yankees. He won his next start as well, this time at home on September 18th, 6-1 over the Boston Red Sox, pitching 7 innings. He went 4-0, 1.67 in 4 starts and continued to pitch well in the postseason. While he ended up with a no-decision in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, he was selected to start the deciding Game 5 ahead of David Price, who was instead used in relief to ensure Game 4 was in the bag. He was very solid that day, giving up only 2 runs in 6 innings to put the Jays on track for a 6-3 win. He then won Game 3 of the ALCS over the Kansas City Royals on October 19th, 11-8, and was in line to pitch the decisive Game 7 had the Jays not lost Game 6.

Marcus was named Toronto's opening day starter in 2016, facing off against the equally charismatic Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays on April 3rd. He got some early run support and pitched into the 9th inning, emerging a 5-3 winner. On May 1st, he defeated the Rays again, 5-1, on his 25th birthday, striking out a personal best 9 batters in the effort. He left the team for a couple of days in May to attend his graduation ceremony at Duke University on May 15th, having been able to complete his coursework during his forced absence from the field the previous year. Overall, though, his season was a bit of a disappointment, as he finished with a record of only 9-10 and an ERA of 4.37 in 32 starts, On the positive side, he was the only Jays pitcher to top 200 innings, but he was clearly outperformed by starting rotation mates Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Still, he was tapped to start the American League Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles on October 4th; he did well, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings as the Jays won the game in extra innings. He then started Game 3 of the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians on October 17th, but he squandered an opportunity to give the Jays a big win after his opponent, Trevor Bauer, had to leave the game in the 1st inning because of a cut finger; Marcus gave up 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings and was charged with the 4-2 loss.

Marcus hesitated before the 2017 on whether he would represent the United States or Puerto Rico, the country from which his mother came, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He ended up deciding on the U.S. and it was a good choice, as he was named MVP of the tournament after some very solid starts, none better than his performance in the final game at Dodger Stadium against Puerto Rico on March 22nd. In that game, he gave up no runs on one hit in six innings to lead his country to an 8-0 win. The Blue Jays started the 2017 season in a rut, but Stroman was one of the few bright spots, recording two complete games over his first four starts. Incredibly, the second of these on April 23rd would be the last nine-inning complete game by a Jays pitcher until Chris Bassitt pitched a shutout on May 12, 2023 - a record 889 games later! On April 25th, he won a game with his bat when he was used as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He doubled against Miguel Socolovich for his first major league hit, then came in to score the winning run in a 6-5 win on an error by Aledmys Diaz. He confirmed his hitting prowess on May 18th, when he hit his first career homer in an interleague game played at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves. His solo shot to the opposite field off Julio Teheran came in a 9-0 win in which he pitched 5 2/3 innings to end a three-game skid. This was the last homer hit by an American League pitcher in interleague play until the adoption of the universal DH in 2022. He finished the year at 13-9, 3.09 in 33 starts, making him clearly the Jays' best pitcher in what was a disappointing season.

In spite of his excellent performance and of his standing as one of the team's key players going forward, the Blue Jays were unable to come to an agreement regarding a contract for 2018, forcing him to go to arbitration over a difference of just $400,000 on a salary of $6.5 million. He lost the case - he was asking for $6.9 million - and the hearings left everyone involved with bitter feelings, especially Stroman who was forced to hear the team denigrate his performance in order to win its case. "The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind," he tweeted after the decision. However, his season got off to a bad start when he experienced soreness in his shoulder during a bullpen session early in spring training. He was diagnosed with a form of inflammation that put his penciled opening day start in jeopardy. That start was pushed back a few days, but he took his regular starting turn in April, albeit with poor results, as he was 0-3, 8.88 during the month. After falling to 0-5 on May 8th, he went on the disabled list with fatigue in his right shoulder and did not return until June 23rd. He pitched well that day, with 5 scoreless innings, and finally recorded his first victory of the year on June 29th when he defeated the Detroit Tigers, 3-2. He went 4-9, 5.54 in 19 starts, pitching 102 1/3 innings.

With the Blue Jays deciding to go on a youth kick in 2019, upper management made it known Stroman would be available in a trade for the right return. While he was still relatively young at 27, he was going to become a free agent in two seasons, and it was unlikely that he was going to be a long-term contributor to the team. However, by choosing to make him available, the Jays were considering trading when his value was at its lowest, not necessarily the best course of action as he would likely become much more valuable were he simply allowed to put together a string of solid starts at the beginning of the next season. In the end, there was no trade that off-season, and on March 13th, new manager Charlie Montoyo picked him to be the team's opening day starter, an honor he had been forced to pass up the previous season because of health issues. Stroman did put together a strong first half, being the rebuilding Jays' sole representative at the All-Star Game, largely on the strength of an excellent ERA as wins were hard to find with a team often unable to put runs on the board. He was 6-11 but with a sparkling 2.96 ERA after 21 starts when he was dealt on July 28th, heading to the New York Mets for two pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. His landing spot was a bit of a surprise, as the Mets were basically out of the race, but they were seemingly unable to resist the opportunity of adding a top-quality starting pitcher at a relatively low cost. He made 11 starts for the Mets, going 4-2, 3.77, for a combined mark of 10-13, 3.22 in 32 games and 159 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings.

In 2020, while forced into idleness by the coronavirus pandemic that shut down much of society, he improvised himself a General Manager as he used the spare time offered him to contact fellow players and secure commitments from them to represent the United States in the 2021 World Baseball Classic. He got early commitments from 2017 Team USA teammates Christian Yelich and Eric Hosmer, and was looking to do the same with other who had sat out previous tournaments, such as Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Trevor Bauer or Walker Buehler. With players responding enthusiastically, commentators were beginning to tag this as a new "Dream Team", in reference to the 1992 US Olympic basketball team, the first to include NBA professionals, that included all of the most iconic players of that generation and swept everything in its wake. Stroman did not play at all that season, however, as he was one of the players opting out due to health and safety concerns, and the pandemic proved to be strong enough to set back the World Baseball Classic by at least one year - if not more. When he returned to the fold in 2021, Marcus quietly had a very effective season, going 10-13, 3.03 and sharing the National League lead with 33 starts. he struck out 158 batters in 179 innings, but his performance came largely under the radar as the Mets were once again a soap opera, with the loss of ace Jacob deGrom after a brilliant first third of the season, two genral managers losing their job, and the sort of turmoil that pushes news of players performing well to the side. He became a free agent after the season and on December 1st, hours before owners decreed a 2021-2022 lockout, he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth $71 million, one of a large number of such big contracts signed before the lockout took effect which left observers wondering why the hell there was a labor conflict when money was flowing around so freely.

In his first season with Chicago in 2022, Stroman went 6-7, 3.50 in 25 games, logging 138 2/3 innings. He led the team in innings and was second in strikeouts with 119, trailing only Justin Steele who had 126. Before the 2023 season, he decided to play for the Puerto Rican national team at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, in spite of having been one of Team USA's key players in the previous edition. He explained that he made the choice to honor his mother, Adlin, who is Puerto Rican, making him eligible for both teams. He was the Cubs' Opening Day starter on March 30, 2023 and made history by becoming the first pitcher to be charged with a ball due to a pitch clock violation, under the new rule introduced that season. It came against Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers with no outs in the 3rd inning and was called by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa. Yelich eventually walked. On May 29th, he pitched the second shutout of his career in a 1-0 one-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays; the only hit was a leadoff single by Wander Franco in the 7th. He went 10-9, 3.95 for the Cubs that year, earning a second trip to the All-Star Game. He pitched 136 2/3 innings and struck out 119 batters as his numbers were eerily similar to those he had put up the year before, the main difference being a higher walk rate.

He became a free agent again after the 2023 season and on January 12, 2024, news came out that he had signed a two-year contract with the New York Yankees worth $37 million. He made his first start for the Yankees against the Houston Astros on March 30th, earning the win as he gave up three runs - none of them earned - in six innings in a 5-3 win, then was tabbed to be the starter in the home opener at New Yankee Stadium against his old team, the Blue Jays, on April 5th.

Stroman has many interests outside of baseball, including rap music - he has worked with rapper Mike Stud, whom he met at Duke and encouraged to pursue a music career - and launched his own clothing line in March of 2016. He has patented his own designer logo: HDMH, which stands for "Height Doesn't Measure Heart", a bit of a mantra for an athlete who was too often told he was too small to succeed. He is also very active on social media, with a half-million followers on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time All-Star (2019 & 2023)
  • AL Gold Glove Winner (2017)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (2023)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (2016 & 2017)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Nick Aguilera: "The lowdown on FA starter Marcus Stroman",, November 25, 2021. [1]
  • Jordan Bastian: "For this Classic, Stroman's heart is with Puerto Rico: Defending MVP as Team USA member honors mom by switching sides",, February 16, 2023. [2]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Stroman does 'Wander Flip' -- then Wander gets lone hit off him: Cubs' Opening Day starter pitches second shutout of career to snap club's four-game skid",, May 29, 2023. [3]
  • Scott Boeck (USA Today): "Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman makes history with MLB's first pitch-clock violation", Yahoo! News, March 30, 2023. [4]
  • Chris Bumbaca: "Marcus Stroman rallying Team USA for 'dream team' at 2021 WBC is what baseball needs", USA Today, March 20, 2020. [5]
  • Eric Chesterton: "Marcus Stroman is recruiting stars for Team USA: He knows how to put a team together",, March 19, 2020. [6]
  • Gregor Chisholm: "Stroman ready to step into Blue Jays ace role: Righty's knee (and outlook) healthy as 2016 season dawns",, January 20, 2016. [7]
  • Gregor Chisholm: "Stroman leads Blue Jays from top of rotation: Excellence, durability key factors to ace's importance to Toronto",, December 5, 2017. [8]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Mets land Stroman from Jays for 2 prospects: Minor League pitchers Kay, Woods-Richardson dealt for NY native",, July 28, 2019. [9]
  • Thomas Harrigan: "Having a career year, this veteran just might be available",, July 1, 2023. [10]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Stroman ready for N.Y. lights: 'It brings out the best in me'",, January 18, 2024. [11]
  • Cathal Kelly: "The 'Stro show' likely won't be back - he doesn't fit the Jays' program", The Globe and Mail, December 24, 2018, pp. B12, B16. [12]
  • Joe Lemire: "Marcus Stroman's miraculous comeback: He starts Saturday for the Blue Jays", USA Today Sports, September 8, 2015. [13]
  • Robert MacLeod: "Blue Jays’ Stroman finds happiness, comfort on the mound", The Globe and Mail, February 21, 2017, pp. S1-S4. [14]
  • Brian Murphy and Bill Ladson: "Stroman reaches 2-year deal with Yankees",, January 12, 2024. [15]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Marcus Stroman's vision for life beyond baseball: 'I want a lane in everything'", USA Today Sports, February 10, 2016. [16]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'I want to be heard': Starting anew with Cubs, Marcus Stroman refuses to back down", USA Today, March 28, 2022. [17]
  • Chad Thornburg: "Stroman dazzles en route to Classic MVP",, March 23, 2017. [18]

Related Sites[edit]