After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Marcus Stroman’s 2021 was a bit of a question mark. He was always a good pitcher, but a year off for anyone is nothing to scoff at. He was also a free agent, though his quick acceptance of the qualifying offer made that point moot. However, Stroman has come back and arguably looks better than ever—and the Mets’ front office needs to reward him with a contract extension before he tests free agency.
Stroman promptly answered any and all questions about what his 2021 would look like by being absolutely lights out in his first 13 starts. He is rocking a 2.40 ERA, he has only walked 17 batters in 71.1 innings, with four of those coming in one outing, his most recent win over the Padres. Despite being a true throwback, pitch-to-contact style pitcher, he is striking out batters at an above-average frequency for him, as his 7.44 K/9 is currently the third-best mark of his career. He also has been far and away the most durable pitcher on staff, as his 71.1 innings pitched leads the Mets and is 13.1 more than Jacob deGrom.
Stroman always has been a good pitcher, and he seemed to have found a second gear at 30. He, deGrom, and Taijuan Walker are the linchpins of a pitching staff that has to juggle multiple bullpen games every time through. The article could simply end here—however, there are a lot of things out of his control that make it even more important to keep him.
Coming into the season, the Mets had visions of a rotation of deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Stroman, Walker, and David Peterson, with Noah Syndergaard coming back around now. However, as probably everyone reading this already knows, that did not happen. Syndergaard reminded us that Tommy John surgery (and recovery) should not be taken 1) for granted or 2) lightly, as he was recently shut down for six weeks. There is a non-zero chance Syndergaard goes into his first foray as a free agency with no innings pitched in two years, and at the maximum he will have two months of work during that time. Carrasco has been doing basically nothing recently, despite the Mets’ assurances he was fine, while recovering from his hamstring tear. When he’ll make his long-awaited Mets debut is an open question.
Those question marks alone should vault Stroman to near the top of the priority list for the Mets after the year, but the minor league system adds to Stroman’s case.
The upper minor leagues are barren with pitching prospects. Syracuse is filled with veterans who, while providing depth that we all know is important and necessary, do not serve as one to one replacements for Stroman. The Mets’ top two pitching prospects—Matthew Allan and J.T. Ginn—likely will not be factors in 2022. Allan underwent his own Tommy John surgery roughly a month ago, putting him out for a lot of 2022 as well as all of this year. J.T. Ginn just barely came back from his Tommy John, one he had while a student at Mississippi State, and one the Mets helped rehabilitate when they drafted him in the second round in 2020.
While Allan and Ginn can make contributions to the Mets in the future, 2022 feels too soon in Ginn’s case, and in Allan’s case, medically impossible. The rest of the Mets’ pitching prospects are young and far away, much like the rest of their position player prospects.
The free agent market for 2022 is interesting, to say the least. There are a lot of older pitchers—Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander (currently rehabilitating his elbow after Tommy John surgery), Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw (though imagining him leaving the Dodgers seems impossible)—are all available, but they are hard to peg down in terms of value past 2022.
Stroman is going to be one of the more sought-after pitchers in the free agent market this year. He is having an excellent year, and as long as that continues, he will be one of the better pitchers available, alongside Kevin Gausman. He has plenty of years in his arm left, too, and obviously you can always use more pitchers. The combination of a sudden question mark around Carrasco, Syndergaard’s potential free agency, and the absolutely barren upper minors pitching staffs for the Mets points to one thing: extending Marcus Stroman sooner rather than later.
And he’s fun to watch, too.