Marcus Stroman Opts Out of Contract, Becomes Free Agent
According to a report by the New York Post’s Jon Heyman, Marcus Stroman has decided to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, making him a free agent this offseason. Stroman’s three-year, $71 million deal with the Cubs allowed him to opt out of the final year, leaving $21 million on the table in search of a more lucrative deal.
A Tale of Two Seasons
Stroman’s 2023 campaign was a rollercoaster ride. In the first half, he showcased his skills with a 2.96 ERA over 112 2/3 innings, earning an All-Star nod. However, the second half was a different story as he struggled with an 8.63 ERA in just 24 innings due to injuries. Stroman missed about six weeks on the injured list with hip inflammation, which was later revealed to be a right rib cartilage fracture. Despite returning for the Cubs’ late-season playoff push, he was limited to bullpen duty and shortened starts.
Overall, Stroman posted a 3.95 ERA over 136 2/3 innings, maintaining his exceptional groundball rate (57.1%) but struggling with a below-average strikeout rate (20.7%). Injuries played a significant role in his performance decline, marking his second consecutive year with notable absences. Stroman’s control remained solid, but his 9% walk rate in 2023 was the highest of his career.
A Free Agent with Potential
Despite the challenges he faced, Stroman’s track record and groundball-heavy approach make him an attractive option for teams in need of pitching. With two All-Star appearances and a seventh-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2017, Stroman has proven himself as a front-of-the-rotation star. His agency, Roc Nation Sports, is expected to secure a multi-year deal for him on the open market, surpassing the $21 million he would have received from the Cubs.
No Qualifying Offer Concerns
Stroman’s previous acceptance of a qualifying offer from the Mets in 2020 means he won’t have to worry about draft compensation affecting his free agency. This lack of attached draft picks could give him an advantage over other starters on the market and also means the Cubs won’t receive any compensation if Stroman signs with another team.
Contract Talks and Future Plans
Although there were some extension discussions between Stroman and the Cubs earlier this year, the negotiations were minimal. Stroman expressed his desire to stay in Chicago, but the lack of contract discussions continued throughout the summer. Initially, it seemed likely that the Cubs would trade Stroman at the deadline, but his second-half struggles and the team’s improvement changed those plans. However, Stroman’s limited contribution to the playoff race may have influenced his decision to explore other options.
Recent reports suggested that Stroman and Kyle Hendricks were expected to return to the Cubs in 2024, with Stroman passing on his opt-out and Hendricks’ $16 million club option being exercised. The status of Hendricks’ option is still unknown, but there are ongoing discussions about a contract extension that could replace the option entirely. This situation may have influenced Stroman’s decision, as he might have felt the Cubs were prioritizing Hendricks in their long-term plans.
Potential Reunion or Other Options
While a reunion between Stroman and the Cubs cannot be ruled out entirely, Chicago has other pitching options to consider. Assuming Hendricks remains, the rotation would feature Justin Steele, Hendricks, and Jameson Taillon as the top three starters. Javier Assad, Hayden Wesneski, and Jordan Wicks would compete for the remaining two spots, with the possibility of Drew Smyly’s involvement if he chooses not to opt out of his contract’s final year ($11 million). The Cubs are likely to pursue at least one veteran arm to strengthen their pitching staff, whether it’s Stroman or another free agent or trade acquisition.