Last week, Marcus Stroman decided to take the qualifying offer and return to the Mets for 2021. This means that he will make $18.9 million and then be an unrestricted free agent after the season with no draft pick attached.
There has been a debate as to whether this was a good thing for the Mets or not. Had he turned down the offer, Stroman would have become a free agent. Assuming he’d have signed with another team, the Mets would end up with a compensation pick. This would have been similar to last year when the Mets got a compensation pick from the Phillies since they signed Zack Wheeler.
Another argument for not bringing Stroman back is that he did not pitch at all in 2020. He began the season on the injured list. Prior to returning, Stroman decided to opt-out of the season due to COVID. This led to some hard feelings and speculation as to what his real intentions were. Was he legitimately worried about the virus or was he using this as an opportunity to hit the free agent market without pitching? While the timing was suspicious, we will likely never know.
Regardless about how you feel, this was a good thing for the Mets. Stroman has been a good pitcher since his 2014 debut. His career stats are significantly above average. With a career ERA of 3.76, a FIP of 3.64, a WHIP of 1.307 and ERA+ of 113, Stroman is accomplished. He isn’t prone to the longball and can strike batters out. Additionally, Stroman has made 5 postseason starts and at one point was the ace of the Blue Jays staff.
It is important to remember that Stroman is not expected to be the ace of the staff. At the moment, he is penciled in as the #2 starter, behind Jacob deGrom. However, the Mets will hopefully push to add another front-line starter. With Steve Cohen at the helm, the Mets are one of only a handful of teams who will be in the running for Trevor Bauer. In addition, Noah Syndergaard is expected to return around the all-star break. This means that Stroman could end up the #4 starter, which would be fantastic.
In terms of money, you can’t complain with what the Mets gave Stroman. In today’s game, top tier pitchers can demand $30 million a year for six years or more. Look at the signings of Max Scherzer, David Price, Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Team will pay a premium for front of the rotation material since they know it is the key to a deep postseason run. Even second tier pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Patrick Corbin, Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler have been able to get contracts for at least 5 years and $21 million. So when the Mets have one-year deal of $18.9 million, we should be grateful. There is no risk of being a long-term nightmare like in the case of Zimmermann or Cueto.
All things considered, the Mets did well here. Barring injury, the top three pitchers in the rotation as it stands now are Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson. Stroman is on a walk year and knows that if he wants to get a 9-figure contract, he needs to pitch well this season. Teams are often hesitant to give out long term contracts to players who hit 30. Not all pitchers age gracefully. The Mets were able to get a season out of a good pitcher for below market value. The Mets still have about $50 million worth of cap space before hitting the luxury tax. With market uncertainty being the theme of the day, the Mets could make one or two more splashy moves before spring training.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)