Stroman declines '24 option, will be free agent (source)

November 4th, 2023

CHICAGO – The Cubs already looked like a club in the market for rotation help this offseason, but that need just became more clear. On Saturday, sources told that All-Star pitcher  has made the decision to opt out of his contract in order to test free agency.

There was a growing belief that Stroman – signed to a three-year, $71 million pact prior to the 2022 season – might stay put, accepting the $21 million salary for ‘24. The veteran right-hander will instead hit the open market after an up-and-down campaign, giving teams in need of starting pitching an intriguing option to consider.

“It was a tale of two seasons,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said of Stroman at his season’s wrap-up press conference.

Overall, Stroman logged a 3.95 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts) this season for the Cubs, but he was limited to 136 2/3 innings due to second-half issues with his right hip and then a fracture in his right rib cartilage. The 32-year-old starter made a late-September return as the Cubs tried to push for the playoffs.

In his first 16 starts of the season, Stroman pieced together a 2.28 ERA over 98 2/3 frames, making the NL All-Star team. He then dealt with a blister in an outing against the Cardinals on June 25 in the London Series, and the remainder of his season was an injury-marred tailspin (8.29 ERA in 38 innings across 11 games).

“He was exceptionally good and a candidate to start the [All-Star] Game,” Hoyer said. “And then, really, kind of post-London I think he kind of really never got it back on track. He struggled in July and then obviously was hurt for August. And I gave him a lot of credit for working hard and trying to come back, but he never quite got back to where it was.

“And so I think that's the only way to look at his season – he was really crucial for us in the first half. But then, obviously, we certainly could have used him in the second half, but he was injured and unable to help us.”

After his final outing of the season, Stroman summed up his year as “just frustrating.”

“I felt really good,” said the pitcher. “And then ever since those hips, I feel like I never just bounced back. Obviously, I felt really good, was about to get back, and then had the rib fracture. So it was just a weird year in the second half.”

Stroman’s decision to opt out of his deal does not necessarily end his time with the Cubs, but a reunion becomes more complicated once free agency is part of the math. One thing is clear: Chicago will need to look at rotation additions in the coming months.

As things currently stand, the Cubs have righty Jameson Taillon under contract, along with lefty Justin Steele, who emerged as a Cy Young contender in ‘23. The Cubs are expected to pick up the option for ‘24 on veteran Kyle Hendricks, too. Behind that trio, the Cubs have veteran Drew Smyly, a younger group of options (Javier Assad, Jordan Wicks and Hayden Wesneski), plus some prospects swiftly climbing the ranks.

Coming off a season in which they just missed the playoffs, the Cubs are looking to take a step forward and build an October-bound roster for ‘24 and beyond. That includes trying to re-sign Cody Bellinger, who declined his mutual option for ‘24, and finding ways to upgrade the lineup and pitching staff.

“As we’ve learned,” Hoyer said, “you can never have enough good pitching.”