As the Mets‘ starting rotation got decimated in 2021, with injuries to Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco and the months-long delay of the rehabbing Noah Syndergaard (plus other key injuries and regressions), there was one constant.
Marcus Stroman, who was pitching in 2021 for the first time since 2019, led the league by making 33 starts.
And in those 33 starts, Stroman was terrific, pitching to a 3.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
Toward the end of the season, Stroman — who is a pending free agent — was asked about a potential return to the Mets and said there had been “no negotiations at all” but that he was open to returning.
The above shouldn’t come as a surprise, since negotiations in-season are often more of an exception than the norm.
But with Stroman (and Syndergaard) in position to walk and deGrom’s health status uncertain, the Mets have a situation brewing when it comes to their starting rotation.
Stroman, who was acquired by the Mets in the summer of 2019 when Brodie Van Wagenen was still the GM, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, so what he did in 2021 after pitching zero big league innings was quite impressive.
And based off what Stroman has done on the mound, he should be one of the most sought after starting pitchers on the market.
It should also be noted that those who bashed the Stroman trade when it happened and/or who slammed the trade when he opted out of the 2020 season because of a global pandemic were wrong then and remain wrong now.
In the Stroman trade, the Mets dealt LHP Anthony Kay (who has a career 5.61 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in three seasons with Toronto) and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson (who struggled badly this season in Double-A before the Jays traded him to the Minnesota Twins in the Jose Berrios deal).
But back to Stroman’s future…
Should the Mets keep him? And will they?
WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE FOR STROMAN TO GO
Stroman is entering his age-31 season and has been pretty durable throughout his career.
Aside from a torn ACL that cost him most of 2015 and an injury-riddled 2018, he has taken the ball more often than not since 2016. And he threw a relatively high number of innings during his rookie season in 2014, too.
But even though Stroman is fanatical (in a good way) when it comes to his conditioning, it’s hard to know how any pitcher will fare as they get older.
And with Stroman perhaps seeking five or six years on his next contract, it’s fair to wonder how the middle and end of that deal might look.
If his Twitter interactions are any indication, Stroman might be seeking a deal that pays him $25 million or so annually. Will the Mets pay that much?
With the exception of 2018, Stroman has outperformed his FIP each of the last four seasons. So we can say that him outdoing his expected numbers is common.
And Stroman has an established record of success and is a damn good pitcher who can pitch near the top of the rotation.
But he is not in the class of pitchers like deGrom or Walker Buehler or Max Scherzer or Zack Wheeler.
And it should be noted that Wheeler — who is a year older than Stroman but hit free agency before his age-30 season — is making about $23.6 million per year.
Should the Mets consider shorter-term free agent pitchers who are high-upside players if Stroman wants what they deem to be too much money?
WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE FOR STROMAN TO STAY
Stroman is very good, and very reliable.
There were about 30 starting pitchers who produced more WAR in 2021 than Stroman, putting him in very good company. Quite simply, he is one of the best in the world at what he does.
And the notion that Stroman doesn’t pitch deep enough into games is nonsense.
Stroman averaged about 5.95 innings per start in 2021. Know who else averaged right around 5.95 innings per start in 2021? Scherzer and Corbin Burnes. Wheeler averaged 6.65.
When discussing the Mets future of Stroman, it’s also important to take a look at who else is expected to be on the free agent market. And the options are not plentiful.
Anthony DeSclafani and Kevin Gausman will be available, but could both return to the San Francisco Giants. Then there’s Clayton Kershaw (who has been unable to stay on the mound) and Robbie Ray (who will be attached to the qualifying offer and whom the Mets would have to surrender the No. 14 pick in the 2022 MLB Draft to sign).
There are the aforementioned high-upside plays who could be had on short-term deals, like Justin Verlander. But the risk is extremely high.
Unlike all of those pitchers, Stroman has already succeeded in New York. And he takes the ball when his turn comes.
And with Stroman being from New York, he knows what it takes to pitch in this market.
If the price tag isn’t outrageous, the Mets need to make a strong effort to retain Stroman.
As far as what “outrageous” is, it’s really more about the years than the dollars — though both obviously matter.
Could a four-year deal for around $92 million work? And how much higher would the Mets be willing to go?
Source: Yahoo Sports