For all the focus on the more middle tier starting pitchers this offseason, it’s not actually new that the Chicago Cubs would be connected to a certain guy closer to the top of the market. After all, it was very early in the offseason that the Cubs were connected to Marcus Stroman, a pitcher they’ve had their eye on for years, and one of the best free agents on the market.
But, you know, when the signings actually start happening, it feels a little different when the Cubs get mentioned in a group like this:
Sources say the Red Sox, Giants, Cubs, Mets, and Angels are interested in free agent righty Marcus Stroman.
— timdierkes (@timdierkes) November 24, 2021
Tim Dierkes, the proprietor of MLB Trade Rumors, only very rarely wades into the direct rumors himself. So when he does, I listen. I have a feeling he’s getting this from a very good source.
Hey, given some of the named teams, maybe Stroman was dropping a hint over the weekend:
Cubs, Astros, Red Sox, Padres, and Giants fans are super active too. Love feeling the love!
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) November 21, 2021
That is not to say that the Cubs are “finalist” for Stroman or anything approaching a finish line or anything like that. Showing interest, together with at least four other teams, is a pretty low bar to cross (we’ve seen it already several times with the Cubs and starting pitchers this offseason). But it’s a good place to start when you have a clear need for a lot of starting pitching, and I’m a fan of Stroman going forward. I like him as a decent bet to age well into his 30s, and his consistency/improvement in recent years give him a reasonable floor of a mid-rotation arm, with some upside to be a front two.
He’s also not connected to draft pick compensation, so you know the Cubs prefer to go that route.
The rub with Stroman is that he’s on the smaller side, isn’t a huge strikeout guy, and isn’t a huge velo guy. He’s more of a guy who outpitches the hitter, stays off the barrel, and picks his spots. The Cubs have had a lot of success with those types, but I understand that many are not keen on the Cubs loading up on too many of them. Of course, in fairness to Stroman, he’s among the best in the baseball at the command/control/pitchability game.
Stroman, a tremendous athlete who could age well, has posted a 3.04 ERA over 179.0 innings for the Mets this year after sitting out the pandemic season. He was just as good in 2019 and 2017, which is kinda making 2018 (5.54 ERA, but sub-4 FIP) look like a flukey blip. I want this guy in the Cubs’ rotation.
The guy has just been consistently good and mostly healthy. Any team should want him in their rotation. Bonus? He’s one of these obsessive pitch-craft guys who is constantly tinkering with his pitches, his timing, his grips, etc., and trying to stay as far ahead of the game as he can. It couldn’t hurt to get another established guy like that on staff as you bring up more young arms.
If the Cubs do step up to pursue Stroman, it’ll mean that they’re willing to get into that four or five-year range on the right free agent, which will also strongly suggest that they aren’t kidding when they say they want to at least try to compete for a playoff spot in 2022. You don’t use up the best year(s) of a high-priced free agent signing on a season you’re planning to punt.
Let’s see where this goes, if anywhere. Those are some high-bidding teams mentioned with the Cubs, and I’ll admit that I’m not convinced they’re going to go to nine figures on any free agents right now, even a guy who fills an obvious need so well like Stroman.