Marcus Stroman elects not to play in 2020

August 10th, 2020

NEW YORK -- Slightly more than a year after the Mets acquired him, pitcher announced that he will not play the rest of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. He became the second member of the team to elect not to play, following outfielder Yoenis Céspedes last week.

“It just ended up being a collective family decision for me, something that’s been wearing on me daily,” Stroman said. “I ended up sitting with my family and assessing all the possibilities, and realizing that there’s just too many uncertainties, too many unknowns right now to go out there, and truly just putting the health for my family and myself first and foremost.”

Stroman, 29, has not pitched this season due to a left calf tear he suffered as Summer Camp was drawing to a close. He had been throwing regular bullpen sessions as he waited for the calf to heal, including an 85-pitch simulated game last week. Given that commitment to return, manager Luis Rojas said he was “surprised” by Stroman’s decision.

“But immediately, you want to be supportive throughout the situation that the whole world is going through,” Rojas said. “That’s why a lot of guys have opted to do the same thing in the game. For us here, we want to be supportive of our players.”

Stroman cited several factors that went into his decision, including having a grandmother and an uncle with compromised immune systems. Recent COVID-19 breakouts among the Marlins and Cardinals rosters also gave Stroman pause, as did spikes of coronavirus cases in various U.S. cities. In particular, Stroman said he was concerned about the Mets’ scheduled trip to Miami next week.

“This is not something that I wanted,” Stroman said. “This was a collective decision by my family for my best interests. Because I’m such a competitor, it was incredibly hard to finally come up with this decision.”

In electing not to play, Stroman forfeited the remainder of his prorated $12 million salary -- around $3.2 million. He had already accrued enough days on the IL to eclipse six years of Major League service time, qualifying him to become a free agent for the first time in his career this November. Although Stroman will have gone a full season without playing at that point, he will join Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray and others atop the free-agent class.

The right-handed Stroman is 51-47 with a 3.76 ERA over six seasons for the Blue Jays and Mets.

“I’m not worried about it, to be honest,” Stroman said. “I still consider myself one of the youngest, one of the best starters on the market. I’m fully healthy. So I’m just letting it kind of handle it however it may play out itself. … It took me an incredibly long time to get to this point, so I’m just going to see how it plays out and go from there.”

A Long Island native, Stroman added that he is interested in returning to the Mets, who figure to need at least one additional starter this winter. But the Mets, who sent top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to the Blue Jays to acquire Stroman last July, have more pressing matters to consider in his absence. The situation solidifies rookie David Peterson’s hold on a rotation spot, if Peterson’s 3.78 ERA through three career starts hadn’t already done that.

The Mets also must find a starter for Wednesday, which was to be Michael Wacha’s turn before a bout of right shoulder inflammation pushed him to the IL. Trades have sapped the organization’s top-level starting pitching depth, sending Kay, Woods Richardson, Justin Dunn, Jordan Humphreys and others elsewhere. Beyond the Mets’ current starting four, their current depth options include Walker Lockett, Franklyn Kilome, Corey Oswalt, Erasmo Ramírez and Ariel Jurado. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen indicated that the team could look outside the organization for help, but the free-agent market is thin.

Internally, the Mets could shift either Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman to the rotation, though doing so would mean committing to a move team officials have resisted in the past.

“Right now, we’ll take inventory, so to speak,” Van Wagenen said. "We were living and surviving without Marcus. He’s such a big part of who we are because of not only his talent, but also his energy. We’ll miss him. There’s no doubt about that. But what this team has shown already, and what I’m confident they’ll do going forward, is have the next man stand up and keep fighting.”