'Chicago!' Stroman to Cubs on 3-year deal

December 2nd, 2021

The Cubs did a lot of subtracting in 2021, but on Wednesday night they made a notable addition in free agent right-hander .

Who was first to report that the sides were beyond the conversation stage? Stroman himself, with a Tweet that simply said, “Chicago!” and tagged the Cubs, who later officially announced the three-year deal.

The club did not disclose financial terms of the contract. ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the deal guarantees $71 million over three years, with an opt-out after the second season. It calls for salaries of $25 million in ’22 and ’23, $21 million in ’24, and includes $2 million escalators in each of the first two seasons of the deal if Stroman reaches 160 innings pitched.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind, to be honest, since [Tuesday] night,” Stroman said. “I was trying to stay out of it as much as possible and let my agent do the work, and he came to me last night and said, ‘The Cubs.’

“Obviously, the Cubs, the history, the tradition here, it’s one of the best franchises in all of sports, and [one of the best] fanbases as well. It’s extremely appealing to me. It sells out every single night. To pitch in front of that electric crowd is something that draws me. Once he told me Cubs were in play, my senses were heightened.”

That was a good thing, since what happened next required some athleticism. Stroman was home in Los Angeles and had to get to Chicago in time to undergo the requisite physical exam so the contract could be finalized before the expiration of baseball’s current CBA on Wednesday night.

“I sprinted to LAX. Literally, sprinted,” Stroman said. “I got on the last flight here and I made it here.”

Stroman, 30, has called Toronto and New York his baseball homes during a Major League career that spans seven seasons with the Blue Jays and Mets. He was an All-Star in 2019, the year he was traded, then he elected not to play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before going 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA in 179 innings while tying for the Major League lead with 33 starts in ’21.

He wasn’t attached to any Draft pick compensation because Stroman had previously been extended a qualifying offer. That was just a year ago, from the Mets, and Stroman accepted the offer before delivering one of his finest seasons in a contract year.

“After pitching zero innings, I was definitely a little worried,” Stroman said. “I think anyone would be a little worried knowing you’re going into a free-agent year after pitching zero innings. I put in an incredible amount of work from the time I opted out … to prepare for that next season.”

Stroman joins a Cubs rotation led by two steady veterans: righty Kyle Hendricks, a longtime Cub, and lefty Wade Miley, who was claimed off waivers from the cost-conscious Reds in November before Chicago picked up Miley’s $10 million option for 2022.

The Cubs also have contractual control of Alec Mills, with Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson as other starting candidates.

Back when they acquired Miley, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer spoke of an effort to diversify a starting staff that threw more two-seam fastballs -- sinkers -- than any other rotation in baseball last season and ranked last in average fastball velocity. Stroman, however, is a sinker specialist himself, throwing 42.3 percent two-seamers to lead a deep arsenal that also includes sliders, split-fingered fastballs, cutters, four-seamers and curveballs. He fell into baseball’s 24th percentile in average fastball velocity with an average four-seamer at 92.4 mph and average two-seamer at 91.9 mph.

Before agreeing with Chicago, Stroman was considered one of the top starting pitchers left on the free-agent market.

He doesn’t consider the Cubs in rebuilding mode.

“I think getting me kind of speaks to that point,” Stroman said. “I think they’re not in a full rebuild. I think they definitely want to win now, and this is a city that has an incredible fanbase. This is a sport that you never know what you’re going to get going into any year. You can have a bunch of young guys play to an incredible level and you can outplay how you’re predicted to play. I’m coming here to win.”