In a season of surprises - both pleasant and otherwise - for the Mets, perhaps no development was more surprising than the team’s sudden acquisition of Marcus Stroman, one of the best pitchers available at the deadline who wasn’t already on the Mets. While they ostensibly were still considering offers for Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard at that point, Stroman’s arrival signaled that the team had not yet surrendered in the bitter fight for the NL Wild Card and his year of remaining team control was a beacon of hope that the 2020 Mets would be relevant and interesting.
A Long Island native, Stroman was selected by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 draft and had largely made good on the promise inherent in such a position. His ERA had a wide range over his time in Toronto, but the underlying peripherals, including a strong ground ball tendency and an exceptional resistance to the home run ball, were remarkably consistent, even if his slight frame and lack of shiny strikeout totals set him apart from his peers.
The Mets shocked baseball with their July trade to the extent that entire articles were written about the fact that career baseball writers had no idea what the team was doing. The price - the promising but high-risk Single-A righty Simeon Woods Richardson and the major league ready but unexciting lefty Anthony Kay - felt significant to the Mets given their thin farm system but was lower than most around baseball would have guessed given Stroman’s talent, age, and contract status.
When he joined the Mets, Stroman racked up just enough iffy starts, including some unexpectedly high home run totals, to start the media machine running with doubts over his value to the Mets and even some unfavorable comparisons to Jason Vargas, who the Mets had parted ways with to give Stroman a place in the rotation. But he finished the season on a strong note, with a 2.91 ERA in September, and ultimately delivered the Mets a 3.77 in 11 starts, just about on par with his career numbers.
One noticeable development in Stroman’s game as he made the transition to Queens, and something to watch in 2020, is a spike in his strikeout totals with a corresponding jump in his home run rate. These numbers brought him more in line with the style of pitching that dominates the Mets’ rotation, but other metrics such as hard hit rate and percent of strikes thrown were consistent enough between his time with the Blue Jays and his time with the Mets to suggest those differences may have largely been statistical noise. Early projections for next year share this assumption and as he enters his age-29 season with a relatively light injury history, there’s every reason to expect him to sustain the performance that brought him over in the first place.
While Stroman’s unexpected arrival did not catapault the Mets into the postseason, not that it was expected to, it did bring a young, fired-up pitcher into an already-strong rotation. He also offers a reasonable replacement for Zack Wheeler’s potential departure, though certainly the team can and should retain both.
Ultimately, while his time with the Mets has been limited thus far, he fell right into the culture of the 2019 Mets, bringing a joy and lightness to games that has eluded the team in prior seasons. Marcus Stroman has come home.