Should Angels still be interested in Marcus Stroman after opt-out

Will Marcus Stroman’s choice to opt-out of the 2020 season affect the Angels’ decision to pursue the pitcher in free agency?

Back in May, when baseball was shut down and we still had no clear line of sight as to whether or not we would have a season in 2020, we started taking a look at potential off-season target for the Los Angeles Angels. One of those targets was Marcus Stroman.

As a team forever in need of pitching, it isn’t hard to envision the match between Stroman and the Angels. He’s a versatile pitcher that competes, gets groundballs in droves, and has the savvy to hold offenses at bay.

In parts of six seasons, Stroman has shown flashes of brilliance. He sports a career 51-47 record with a 3.76 ERA, a 3.64 FIP, and 15.4 fWAR. From a peripheral standpoint, he’s averaged 7.36 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, a 58.6% groundball rate, and limited opposing hitters to a 30.8% hard-hit mark.

But there is an intangible that Marcus Stroman brings to the mound that both fuels and undercuts him a bit; his attitude.

While the chip on Stroman’s shoulder certainly aids in his ability to stand on a mound and compete with the best of the game, it sometimes gets in the way of being a good teammate. He essentially forced is way out of Toronto after the Blue Jays set on a course of rebuilding. However, it is his latest decision which will weigh heavily on teams, like the Angels, that may pursue him as a free agent this coming winter.

On Tuesday, Stroman became the latest player to opt-out of the 2020 season. While he cited concerns in regard to COVID-19 and the uncertainties around testing and control of the virus, his timing was nonetheless suspect. Out with an apparent calf issue, Stroman has been on the injured list since the start of the season and has yet to throw a pitch in 2020.

Here’s where things get a little funky. Since Stroman didn’t opt-out at the beginning of the season and instead was placed on the IL, he’s accrued service time for the season. As such, he’s technically accrued enough time to ensure that his free agency will not be delayed, something that would have occurred had he opted out before the season started.

As one would guess, this hasn’t pleased Mets fans, who have accused Stroman of gaming the system, while lamenting the trade package New York gave up last summer. Meanwhile, others have come to his side to note that Stroman playing the system is akin to service-time manipulation by management.

While one can see both sides of the argument, especially from the outside looking in, the Angels have a completely different angle to review. How does reflect on his character as a teammate? Will he be a good addition to their clubhouse?

Obviously, it is Stroman’s prerogative to opt-out. Concerns over his health and that of his family and how to act on them should be the right of the player. However, it is Stroman’s decision to act on that choice only AFTER his service time bell had rung is what is called into question. It speaks of the “me-first” concerns that have been placed on the pitcher since his days in Toronto.

For the Angels, it will be interesting to see if they weigh those concerns when choosing to pursue Stroman. Given the team’s issue with finding pitching and getting consistent, productive innings out of their starters, those concerns may not be egregious enough to warrant passing on a talented arm.

None of these things are necessarily a deal-breaker for the Los Angeles Angels, but coupled with the lack of innings in 2020, and the Halos may still tread cautiously in pursuit of Marcus Stroman. It’s a bad look, but far from being a complete clubhouse cancer, especially on a team that has so many positive clubhouse presences in Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and David Fletcher to name a few.

No, the needs of the team may trump the minor concerns over character, and the Angels certainly have a need here.