The Toronto Blue Jays were seeking a major-league player from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for starting pitcher Marcus Stroman in talks before the Cubs acquired Jose Quintana, according to Peter Gammons. Toronto has begun the second half with two losses and now sit 8.5 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.
Stroman, 26, is under team control through 2020 and has quickly established himself as one of the top young pitchers in the game. The right-hander is 9-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 2017 and is back on track after a 2016 season in which his ERA rose to the mid-fours. Despite unexceptional strikeout numbers, Stroman has shown impressive command and stamina: his 112.1 innings pitched this season ranks 23rd among all starting pitchers.
The Cubs, who included top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease as part of a four-player package sent to the White Sox in exchange for Quintana on Thursday, now have significantly less minor-league depth to deal from. For a controllable asset like Stroman, the Cubs would most likely come up short in assembling a package of minor leaguers. However, the Cubs have strong depth in both the infield and outfield at the big-league level, and could make Ian Happ, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber or Albert Almora available in discussions.
Whether the Blue Jays are ready to begin a complete teardown will dictate the ace's availability as the July 31st deadline approaches, though it seems very unlikely that he’ll be moved. While it is unlikely that the Cubs deal a major-league contributor off their roster mid-season, Cubs President Theo Epstein may simply be doing background work on a deal that could come to fruition in the offseason. If Jays GM Ross Atkins does indeed take the franchise into a rebuild over the next several months, Stroman and fellow teammate Josh Donaldson would be hot commodities for clubs hoping to contend both now and for years in the future.
Stroman and third baseman Josh Donaldson are considered likely to stay in Toronto through the end of the month, though short-term rentals like Joe Smith, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano could be dealt.