MLB Free Agency: Cubs sign starter Marcus Stroman

·4 min read

Cubs make free agent splash, sign Stroman originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Classify this as spending intelligently.

The Cubs have signed Marcus Stroman to a three-year deal, bringing one of the best starting pitchers on this offseason’s free agent market to the North Side.

Stroman first broke the news on his personal Twitter account.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the deal is worth $71 million ($25 million in both 2022 and 2023) and $21 million in 2024.

It includes an opt out after 2023 and escalators for both 2022 and 2023 worth $1 million if Stroman tosses 160+ innings.

It’s the Cubs’ biggest addition not only so far this offseason, but their biggest in nearly four winters. They signed Yu Darvish to a six-year deal at the start of spring training in February 2018.

The Cubs entered this winter with a priority to improve their pitching staff and upgrade the starting rotation. Stroman, who turns 31 next May, checks that box as a durable top-of-the-rotation arm.

"I love how he pitches," team president Jed Hoyer said Wednesday night. "The aggressiveness, the passion is fantastic. Super athletic pitcher. I really like the fact that he can manipulate the ball in so many different ways. 

"He's got a great mix, he keeps the ball on the ground and definitely limits hard contact. We really like his athleticism and his fiery approach. I think that he's got a real desire to evolve as a pitcher. I think we've already seen it since his college days. He keeps adding new tricks, and I like guys that are always trying to get better."

Stroman, an All-Star in 2019 and Gold Glove winner in 2017, holds a career 3.63 ERA in seven seasons between the Blue Jays and Mets. He’s coming off an impressive season in Queens in which he led MLB in starts (33), finishing with a 3.02 ERA and 1.145 WHIP in 179 innings.

He’s made 32+ starts four times in the last five full seasons. Stroman opted out of the pandemic-shortened 60-game 2020 season.

“We need to dramatically improve our pitching,” Hoyer said in October. “I don't think there's any question about that. Our starting rotation simply wasn't good enough this year to compete.”

This will certainly help.

Stroman doesn’t rely on high-90s velocity to get batters out. He's effective at inducing groundballs and primarily has a four-pitch mix (sinker, slider, split finger fastball and cutter) with an ability to throw two more (four-seamer and curveball).

He was a Cubs trade target during their rebuild pre-2016 and now is a key piece as they try to build their next championship contender.

“The Cubs are always going to be a huge destination target,” Stroman told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer in September. “Just because of the history of the franchise, how amazing the franchise is. And the city’s one of my favorite cities. 

“So I don’t think the Cubs will ever have trouble getting guys or having guys that want to go there. The organization’s been so good for so long, and it has that history there. I think everybody wants to play at Wrigley in front of that crowd. 

“I think the Cubs will be fine. Even in their rebuild mode, I still think guys will want to go there.”

Case in point.

The Cubs began addressing their rotation last month with the waiver-claim addition of lefty Wade Miley. With Stroman, they have an experienced 1-2-3 punch atop the rotation, along with Kyle Hendricks.

Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson and Alec Mills are in-house options to fill out the starting five, but the Cubs will continue looking outside the organization for rotation additions.

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