Mets extend qualifying offer to Stroman

Starter likely to hit FA market, but club needs pitching help

November 1st, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Mets are in dire need of starting pitching. is a starting pitcher.

For those reasons, the Mets extended Stroman a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer prior to the deadline, the team announced on Sunday. The widespread industry expectation is that Stroman will decline and enter free agency for the first time.

The decision makes sense for a team with only two starting pitchers -- Jacob deGrom and David Peterson -- penciled into the 2021 rotation. Additional in-house options include Seth Lugo and Steven Matz, but the former is unproven as a full-time starting option while the latter struggled throughout '20.

“I should be one of the top arms,” Stroman said in July, after electing not to play the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. “I believe I’m one of the youngest. I’m extremely healthy. I’m coming off a great year. So however it plays out, I think it will play out.”

Even if the Mets include one or both of them in next year’s starting five, they will need to pursue multiple starters via free agency or trade this winter -- including mid- or top-market options. Stroman rates as one of the most accomplished arms available, along with Trevor Bauer, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and others. He would likely command more than $18.9 million annually as a free agent, which is why extending him a qualifying offer makes such sense from the Mets’ perspective.

If Stroman declines, the club will receive a compensatory 2021 Draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B. Stroman will have until Nov. 11 to make his decision on the qualifying offer.

Any other outcome seems unlikely given how outspoken Stroman has been about exploring free agency. In addition to his midsummer comments, Stroman -- a New York native -- has solicited interest from the Yankees, recently writing on Twitter that “besides [Gerrit] Cole, there’s no current Yankee pitcher who will be anywhere in my league over the next 5-7 years.”

The Yankees just had two key starters, Paxton and Tanaka, become free agents.

“It took me an incredibly long time to get to this point,” Stroman said in July, “so I’m just going to see how it plays out and go from there.”

A Stroman pursuit for the Mets or any other team, however, does not come without risk. Entering his age-30 season, Stroman will not have pitched for a year and a half. He struggled briefly after the Mets acquired him from the Blue Jays for two top pitching prospects in July 2019, going 1-2 with a 5.05 ERA over his first seven starts. But he recovered to go 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA over his final four outings down the stretch, setting him up for what was supposed to be a critical season leading up to free agency.

Instead, Stroman tore his left calf muscle during Summer Camp, opened the season on the injured list and then elected not to play. He is one of the most athletic pitchers in baseball, a former Gold Glove Award winner who boasted earlier this year that he has the “best core in the league.” But Stroman has also had three IL stints over the last three seasons.

Overall, he is 51-47 with a 3.76 ERA over six big league seasons, with an All-Star appearance in 2019.