CHICAGO – Marcus Stroman knows what’s good. He was traded once before at the deadline, in 2019 when the Mets acquired him from the Blue Jays. If his current team, the Cubs, doesn’t turn around his season, he may be on the move again.
Strowman didn’t want that to happen.
“At this point in my career, I’m very open to anything. But it’s going to bother me a little bit, just because I feel like I like it here, as much as the city, the top-down organization, the fans,” said Stroman. the athlete on saturday. “It’s unbelievable to play at Wrigley. I walk out of here 30 minutes before the game and get a standing ovation, it’s hard to top that.
“It’s going to be tough, really tough for that matter. But at the end of the day, that’s out of my control. I’m sure I’d be happy to play elsewhere too.”
The trade deadline is two months. But the Cubs, 8-19 since their 14-10 start, are heading downhill. After dropping the first two games of their series against the Reds at Wrigley Stadium, they finished last in the NL Central, though only 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers.
Stroman, 32, signed a three-year, $71 million free agent contract with the Cubs just 18 months ago. Under the terms of the deal, he could opt out of the final year and re-enter the free agent market after this season, a path he will almost certainly pursue if he continues at his current level of performance. Going into Saturday, Stroman is fourth in the majors with a 60.2 percent ground ball average and 15th with a 2.95 ERA.
The way the Cubs keep Strowman from leaving is by him signing a contract extension. The team is happy with Stroman and is open to a long-term arrangement, according to a source familiar with the club’s thinking. But negotiating during the season is difficult, and the club need not rush to a decision. Stroman has only made 11 starts, and a lot can change, one way or another, over the next couple of months.
The deadline, however, would force the Cubs to make a stand. If they kept Strowman without signing him to an extension, they would lose him for nothing if he became a free agent. Stroman accepted a qualifying offer from the Mets after the 2020 season, and a player cannot receive a qualifying offer twice, denying the Cubs potential compensation.
The Cubs could deal with Strowman and then try to re-sign him as a free agent, but the pitcher acknowledged that it’s rare for players to return to teams that trade them. His preference is a new contract that would enable him to avoid the open market.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking, where they’re far from moving forward, but I’d love to stay here and sign an extension and not even get to free agency, honestly,” said Stroman. “I’m very confident in free agency, too. I’m really big on letting it out. I’m great either way.”
If the Cubs are sold out at the deadline, Stroman wouldn’t be their only attractive trade candidate. Quarterback Cody Bellinger, who would likely turn down his end of the mutual option on his one-year deal, would also intrigue the contenders. So it could be left fielder Drew Smillie, who could opt out of his deal at season’s end if he pitched 110 runs. He is currently at 55 1/3.
Strowman will start next season at the age of 33, an age teams often dread about long-term arrangements for pitchers. But in 36 starts with the Cubs, his ERA is 3.33, and his adjusted ERA is 26 percent higher than the league average. Last season, he was out June 10-July 8 with a sore right shoulder and also missed time due to a positive COVID-19 test. This season, he’s been healthy, well on his way to passing 200 runs.
The free agent market will offer a number of alternatives if the Cubs lose Strowman and/or Smyly, who turns 34 next month. Besides two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who is likely to land a record deal, the list of potential free agents includes Julio Urias, Aaron Nola, Eduardo Rodriguez and Sonny Gray, as well as Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito. With the exception of Gray, they are all younger than Stroman and Smyly.
“I know they’re going to have to make a lot of decisions maybe by the trade deadline, for their future and everything,” said Stroman. “I would love to stay here. I love everything about being a cub. Best case scenario is if I stay here and sign an extension.”
(Photo: Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”