Retaining Marcus Stroman must be a top priority for the Mets
With question marks abound in their rotation, New York should look to lock-up Stroman (3.02 ERA) for 2022 and beyond
On a Mets team that has countless questions they have to address – from their front office to the dugout staff to a large percentage of their roster - there is one move that to me they just don’t have a choice on: re-signing pending free-agent Marcus Stroman to a new multi-year contract.
Right now, the 2022 Mets rotation has only Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Carrasco under contract, none of which offer any assurances in their own unique way. As we learned throughout the course of the 2021 season, they’re also lacking quality depth as Joey Lucchesi is going to miss all of next season while he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. That leaves only Tylor Megill, Trevor Williams and possibly David Peterson as potential major league depth and back-end options, but none are shoe-ins to even make the Opening Day roster in 2022. And while Noah Syndergaard could be back on a qualifying offer, he’s logged all of two major league innings since September 29, 2019.
That leaves the Mets badly in need of a top-shelf starting pitcher (and more). Stroman is a known quantity and served as the only healthy, consistent and dependable arm in the rotation all year. In 33 starts he delivered a 3.02 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP, while impressively hurling 179 innings after not pitching at all in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Also, Stroman’s from the area, loves New York, and brings a combination of passion, energy, and swagger to the clubhouse.
But what might a new contract for Stroman look like? How might that impact the rest of their off-season agenda simply from a player personnel perspective?
As one of the top available starting pitchers this winter, Stroman seems well positioned to command a salary $20-25 million area, potentially for four or five years. The Mets’ payroll is already around $135 million for 2022 before retaining their existing free agents, agreeing to terms on their arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration-eligible players, and/or procuring new talent. Assuming the Mets re-sign Stroman on the high-end at $25 million, Syndergaard and Michael Conforto (the less likely of the two to accept) on a qualifying offers for $18.4 million each, the payroll would already in the neighborhood of $200 million for next season. Is that something club owner Steve Cohen and whoever the team’s president of baseball operations will be willing to consider?
Cohen has indicated he’d like to run the Mets like the big market team they are, and has said he would consider exceeding the luxury tax under the right conditions, but it remains to be seen how much room that would leave to retain players such as Aaron Loup and Javier Báez, not to mention fill other holes the club badly needs to fill.
For all of those reasons and more, players such as Dom Smith, Jeff McNeil and JD Davis (all eligible for arbitration) could be on the bubble. The trio is projected to earn around $10 million through arbitration (per MLB Trade Rumors). While their salaries are not necessarily untenable, if their roles are rendered superfluous by other moves the Mets could consider trading them and reallocating those dollars elsewhere.
Regardless of the ripple effect, bringing back Stroman supersedes pretty much everything else, and New York will have to strongly consider taking their payroll to a level it hasn’t been if they’re going to fill all of their holes and field a contender in 2022.