Marcus Stroman and the Cubs Reportedly Had “Preliminary” Extension Talks This Spring
Tonight, Marcus Stroman will try to bounce back from his rare clunker in Minnesota, this time facing the Phillies.
Generally speaking, Stroman has been exactly the guy the Cubs hoped he would be when they signed him to a three-year, $71 million deal at the buzzer before the lockout, in advance of the 2022 season. He’s been consistent, effective, and stabilizing. His 3.24 ERA so far this year is 24% better than league average by ERA-, and his 23.2% strikeout rate is the best of his career.
Typically, when the Cubs are in a rut like they are now, they can count on Stroman to at least give them a chance to win in his next start.
If he keeps going this way, it’s certainty that the 32-year-old righty will opt out of the final year of his contract, worth $21 million for 2024. Barring a terrible injury or extremely disconcerting nosedive in his performance, Stroman will be be able to top that guarantee – handily – in free agency.
But Stroman likes being a Cub. And the Cubs like having Stroman. So the fact that they started dialoguing about a new deal back in Spring Training is not necessarily surprising:
“I’ve been open with the front office here, been very vocal that I want to be here and I want an extension, that I don’t want to honestly make it to free agency,” Stroman told the Sun-Times. “But I’m also very confident in my abilities in free agency. I’ve always bet on myself.”
In other words: this is where Stroman wants to be in the years ahead, but it’s not like he’s going to sign a huge bargain deal before November. My guess is a deal before the offseason is very unlikely, as these deals usually are. The Sun-Times reports that there have not been any negotiations since the season started.
The Cubs are in an interesting spot with Stroman and their pitching staff. We know that much of the Cubs’ upper-level prospect depth is on the pitching side, and we’ve seen how valuable it can be when a guy breaks out like Justin Steele. But we’ve also seen that the process can take time, even with a well-regarded, high-floor guy like Hayden Wesneski. With Kyle Hendricks no lock to bounce back or be around in 2024, with Drew Smyly looking more and more like he might also opt out of his deal after the season, and with depth starters like Javier Assad and Adrian Sampson and Caleb Kilian not necessarily becoming more than depth in the next few years, you could understand why the Cubs might be eager to have Stroman’s stabilizing presence for years to come.
The flip side there is that, while the upcoming free agent class is very weak on the positional side, it is potentially very strong on the starting pitching side, with all of Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, Lucas Giolito, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, Luis Severino, Max Scherzer, and more set to hit the market. The Cubs are certainly going to be involved there, and just as Stroman may want an opportunity to explore his options, the Cubs may also want to do some exploring.
In any case, it’s good to know that there’s a strong relationship there. Even if you want to explore options, and even if you’re wholly confident in your coming waves of starting pitching, you still may want to try to get a good value on a stabilizing presence like Stroman.
And for today, I’m going to hope he is that guy against the Phillies.