In a mildly surprising move, Marcus Stroman accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer on Wednesday. Seemingly excited (as we all were) by Steve Cohen’s introductory press conference and perhaps sensing just how poorly this year’s free agent market is going to develop, the Long Island native chose the security of a one-year, $18.9 million deal rather than testing free agent waters.
Short term, there’s no downside to this move from the Mets’ perspective. Stroman has consistently churned out 3-4 win seasons by both fWAR and WARP over the past four years, making him one of the most consistent performers in baseball. He should provide a stable #2 presence in the rotation behind Jacob deGrom, something that was sorely lacking given that all four of David Peterson, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman were projected for rotation spots prior to this signing. As is, the Mets need at least one and probably two more starting pitchers this offseason, but Stroman is a great first step.
Beyond this season, it would behoove the Mets to think about extending the diminutive right hander. No starting pitching prospects of note are particularly close to the majors, with the upper levels of the Mets’ minor league system filled mostly with sixth starter types. Noah Syndergaard will be a free agent offseason along with Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo is due to hit free agency in 2023. In other words, the already poor starting pitching situation won’t be getting much better over the next couple years barring any unexpected breakouts.
At 29, Stroman is still in his prime, and a four or even five year deal wouldn’t extend far into the declining phase of his career. Most estimates pegged him for a $15 or $16 million AAV - a steal for a team with a healthy financial situation but still decent compensation for a veteran facing an uncertain free agent landscape amid the pandemic and a looming fight over the next CBA. Moreover, an extension would lower Stroman’s AAV for luxury tax purposes, opening up more room for the Mets to flex their financial muscles in an offseason that will be overflowing with appealing free agent options.
To put it succinctly, now is the time for the Mets to strike and lock in a top-30 pitcher on an extremely affordable deal. There’s a long term need in the rotation and very few long term commitments on the current balance sheet. Hopefully both sides feel the same way and Stroman can stay in orange-and-blue for the next couple years.