So a few days back on February 17, Marcus Stroman came out in Dunedin and ripped the Blue Jays front office, the lack of leadership in the clubhouse, arbitration frustration and the general discontent he feels with the trade rumors that have been swirling around his head since 2018. Let’s just say he didn’t hold back. He said his peace and we listened. Now what?
Stroman later clarified his comments by stating that he wanted to remain a Blue Jay and that he desired a long term contract with the team. After all, he did sign a one-year deal in January to avoid arbitration to the tune of $7.4 million. He has two years left of arbitration before he becomes a free agent, and once again he’s sounded off about a long term deal. The speculation is that he’s not been offered one, yet.
Any sports fan can imagine that arbitration can be frustrating and downright infuriating for a player, but is Stroman right in venting what he’s feeling or has he set forth a string of events that will cement his fate?
The big question remaining is are the Blue Jays and Stroman headed for a nasty divorce? Stroman has been quoted as saying that the Toronto clubhouse lacks leadership since some of their veteran players have departed or been shipped out, and to a degree he’s right. However, the team still has Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, and Kendrys Morales to fill those roles and the additions of John Axford, Clayton Richard, and Matt Shoemaker will provide a decent core of experience as well. We can’t deny that mentors will be needed for this upcoming rebuild and that the young stars who are about to rise from the playing fields of the farm system require it from day one, despite their projected pedigree.
Stroman admitted that he did not feel comfortable taking on the role of a leader as he felt he needed to continue growing and evolving with much to learn, despite being with the team since 2012. He was quoted as saying, “I’m still trying to get established myself. I would never consider myself a veteran, I still feel like I’m working, I still feel like I’m climbing, I’m nowhere near where I think I’m going to be so I think we do have to put more of an emphasis in this game on keeping these [veteran] guys. Not only do they perform on the field, their mental [approach], I can’t tell you how much they’ve done for me.”
So maybe Stroman is feeling the loss of his former teammates Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin more than ever as the Blue Jays continue with their rebuild and enter yet another season. And yes, the loss was hard for many to swallow – especially the fans. But we’ve moved on and continue to look forward. At least I have.
Kevin Pillar is one veteran player that is excited about the new management, all the changes and taking on the role of a leader. He reacted on Tuesday February 19 and stated “I think I’m naturally born to be a leader,” said Pillar. “I go about my work and I go about my play wanting guys to see the way I work, to see the way I play and kind of try to lead by example. It’s something that I’m going to have to get comfortable with being more of a vocal leader. Fortunately, I’ve been here a long time and I’ve been around some pretty good leaders, and I’ve seen the way they’ve been about leading.”
So if Pillar and others can fill in as true role models this season and Stroman can come back as a leader in the future, is the clubhouse going to be ok? Or will there continue to be discontent amongst the ranks as Blue Jays players, management, and front office navigate new and uncharted waters? Right now it’s a wait and see, cat and mouse game where only time will tell us who will be the winners and losers in the end.