Stroman, Blue Jays seem headed for arbitration

Stroman, Blue Jays seem headed for arbitration

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays could be headed for an arbitration hearing with Marcus Stroman after the two sides did not reach an agreement before Friday's deadline to exchange salary figures.

Toronto avoided arbitration with Aaron Loup ($1.125 million), Darwin Barney (2,887,500) and Ezequiel Carrera ($1,162,500) but could not find common ground with Stroman. The 25-year-old right-hander is seeking $3.4 million through arbitration and the Blue Jays have countered with $3.1 million.

If the two sides cannot reach a compromise, an indepedent arbitrator will allow each party to make its case and then pick one of the two numbers as Stroman's salary for 2017. Either way, Stroman is set to earn a significant raise in his first year of arbitration eligibility after earning $515,900 last season.

The Blue Jays have been known as a file-and-trial team, which means once salary figures are exchanged the team does not negotiate one-year settlements and will instead go to a hearing. Exceptions are made for multiyear deals or contracts that at least include an additional team option.

The policy was first instituted by former general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Current GM Ross Atkins was less publicly committed to the file-and-trial strategy last offseason, but in the end the club kept it in place. Third baseman Josh Donaldson exchanged salary figures with the Blue Jays last year but eventually skipped the process by signing a two-year deal.

Toronto could take a similar approach with Stroman, but the club won't be under a lot of pressure to get something done. Stroman, as a Super Two arbitration player, is not eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season so if there's a compromise to be made, it likely would come in the form of a two-year deal. Otherwise, the Blue Jays and Stroman will simply let the arbitrator decide which salary is appropriate.

Stroman began last year as Toronto's Opening Day starter, and he eventually went 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA. It was hardly a smooth ride as Stroman got off to a slow start and even had some critics suggesting he should be sent to the Minor Leagues. But to his credit, Stroman bounced back and after having a 5.33 ERA on June 26 he made some adjustments and posted a 3.42 ERA over his final 102 2/3 innings.

One of the biggest things working in Stroman's favor for an arbitration case is that he tossed 204 innings last season. An arbiter might see a lot of value in the heavy workload, but whether it's enough to earn $3.4 million remains to be seen. At the beginning of the offseason, Stroman was projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $3.5 million through arbitration.

With Loup, Barney and Carrera now under contract, Toronto currently has a payroll of $129 million. That does not include Stroman's salary or the amount of money that will be spent on pre-arbitration players. When factoring everything in, the Blue Jays are closer to $135 million, and according to various reports, they should spend upwards of $160 million this year.

Loup, who agreed to the one-year deal on Friday, could have a prominent role in Toronto's bullpen. The Blue Jays have yet to sign a reliever to a Major League deal this offseason and they still need someone to replace the since departed Brett Cecil. Loup is the early favorite for that job, but he will receive competition from Matt Dermody, Brett Oberholtzer, Chad Girodo and likely a late addition.

Barney and Carrera signed their deals on Thursday. Barney will once again become Toronto's primary utility infielder behind Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis. Carrera may have a chance to start, but Toronto is expected to add at least one outfielder, possibly two, this offseason so he could be pushed back into a reserve role as well.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.