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  • NEWS: Marcus Stroman Opts Out, Shaking Up Cubs Rotation Etch-a-Sketch


    Matt Trueblood

    Marcus Stroman opted out of the final year of his contract with the Chicago Cubs Saturday, creating some interesting new opportunities--but a bunch of new uncertainty--about the team's 2024 starting rotation.

    Image courtesy of © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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    By the end of the 2023 regular season, several reports had suggested that Marcus Stroman would eschew the opt-out in his three-year deal with the Cubs and return to the team for 2024, at a $21-million salary. That made sense, given the brutal July and injury-stunted August and September that ruined a sterling half-season by the diminutive righthander. Now, however, Jon Heyman tweets that Stroman has exercised that option and become a free agent, after all.

    Because of the volume of whispers we heard indicating the opposite, this is hitting the web as surprising news today, but it was never clear why there was such certainty about it. Stroman will turn 33 next May. He's already received a qualifying offer, so he can't have that restrictor plate attached to him this time around. This is a chance to get a multiyear contract, and it could very well be his last one.

    Stroman probably won't find $21 million per year for his services on the open market, but he could make more guaranteed money this way than he would by taking the $21 million in 2024 and then hitting the market yet again next winter. In reality, he's never been a true ace, and his age, size, and stuff suggest that he doesn't have many years left as even a mid-rotation starter. His market this winter will reflect that fairly. Next winter, it might have done so cruelly.

    From the Cubs' perspective, this is bittersweet. Stroman had a frustrating 2022, but that was going to be a lost year, anyway. With a team trying to contend in 2023, he was the stopper throughout the first half. He had some dazzling outings, and seemed to rise to the occasion when the team needed him most. Later in the season, he tried to pitch through an injury (to the detriment of all), then spent a long time on the injured list and became the object of some heavy speculation during that period. On balance, though, he had the kind of campaign that should encourage Stroman watchers going forward.

    On the other hand, the Cubs need a true front-of-the-rotation starter, and Stroman isn't it. They wanted to retain Kyle Hendricks, but with $23.7 million spoken-for in their competitive balance tax payroll number in Stroman, that would have been tough to do. Now, they have some new openings, and some new flexibility. Justin Steele is still slotted into one of the top two spots in next year's starting rotation. It now seems overwhelmingly likely that Hendricks will (either on his club option, or on some short-term extension that replaces it) also be in the mix. Jameson Taillon figures to be the team's third or fourth starter, just ahead of Hendricks in the rotation hierarchy. With Stroman removed from the equation, there's more money to be spent to fill the front end.

    That has to mean that the Cubs will be more aggressive in their pursuit of the best available starters this winter: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. They still might not sign any of them, but the chances that they'll land one just rose. It also means that signing any of them would still leave the team some room to spend money upgrading their offense. It means that signing a free-agent starter of note is more likely, which makes trading for a controllable starter less so, which slightly increases the chances that they spend significant talent capital to acquire a big bat in trade--yes, perhaps even Juan Soto.

    Yamamoto would be the huge prize. He's the ace who would transform the Cubs' rotation, and taking over $20 million out of their projected rotation expenditure sheet makes landing him more plausible. That one is still a longshot, because the contract he's in position to command is gargantuan, but this unexpected development moves it into the realm of real possibility. This is a fun way to start the offseason, even if it comes with a frisson of grief over the unrealized promise of Stroman's often-thrilling Cubs tenure.

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    Steele/Taillon/Wicks/Assad is a reasonably good foundation, and it's possible (albeit unlikely) the Cubs retain Hendricks, but coming out of the offseason with a top level SP should be the team's priority.

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    56 minutes ago, Matt Trueblood said:

    It means that signing a free-agent starter of note is more likely, which makes trading for a controllable starter less so, which slightly increases the chances that they spend significant talent capital to acquire a big bat in trade--yes, perhaps even Juan Soto.

    This is a takeaway I have too.  I've thought for a while the top end of the domestic FA market was a no go.  I'd still generally like to avoid it (give me one of the Japanese starters please), but someone like Jordan Montgomery certainly feels more likely than he did yesterday. 

    And with the resources available, one big signing, one big trade, and a couple smaller signings makes the most sense from a resource allocation standpoint.

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    19 minutes ago, Bertz said:

    This is a takeaway I have too.  I've thought for a while the top end of the domestic FA market was a no go.  I'd still generally like to avoid it (give me one of the Japanese starters please), but someone like Jordan Montgomery certainly feels more likely than he did yesterday. 

    And with the resources available, one big signing, one big trade, and a couple smaller signings makes the most sense from a resource allocation standpoint.

    With today's news I'm definitely gonna have to write up the 'Aaron Nola is Jon Lester redux' take I've had kicking around in the back of my mind for a few weeks 

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    I don’t want to call this exciting, but with or without Stroman am pretty high on the org’s pitching and this only increases the already good chance of landing Ohtani.

     

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    2 hours ago, Outshined_One said:

    Steele/Taillon/Wicks/Assad is a reasonably good foundation, and it's possible (albeit unlikely) the Cubs retain Hendricks, but coming out of the offseason with a top level SP should be the team's priority.

    Why is it unlikely the Cubs retain Hendricks? I would say retaining him is very likely. 

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    Hell yes to Ohtani. Put him to the lineup and he is one of, if not, the best hitters in the lineup. Add him to the rotation from 2025 and he is your instant ace. Some players will never be overpriced and he is one of them. If Stroman opting out increases the chances of getting Ohtani, then the FO would be foolish not to at least try. 

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    5 hours ago, Transmogrified Tiger said:

    With today's news I'm definitely gonna have to write up the 'Aaron Nola is Jon Lester redux' take I've had kicking around in the back of my mind for a few weeks 

    Writing actual blog posts remains annoyingly difficult compared to rambling message board replies, but here it is: 

     

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    ^ You lay out the case well and I agree that, if they sign a FA he should be the guy. His top of the league command, control, durability, healthy, and outstanding chase all fit Cubs. His skillset and track record is the kind that gets Not That Gooded in FA to where he could be a steal (7/180?). He’s almost literally the only FA SP I have big interest in signing

    Bonus points because my pre-Stroman prediction would be Nola to the Cardinals 

     

    Edited by TomtheBombadil
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    1 hour ago, TomtheBombadil said:

    ^ You lay out the case well and I agree that, if they sign a FA he should be the guy. His top of the league command, control, durability, healthy, and outstanding chase all fit Cubs. His skillset and track record is the kind that gets Not That Gooded in FA to where he could be a steal (7/180?). He’s almost literally the only FA SP I have big interest in signing

    Bonus points because my pre-Stroman prediction would be Nola to the Cardinals 

     

    Though more risky, I’d rather give that type of money to 25 year old Yamamoto rather than 30 year old Nola. 

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    3 hours ago, Transmogrified Tiger said:

    Writing actual blog posts remains annoyingly difficult compared to rambling message board replies, but here it is: 

     

    Firmly on the sign Nola team. I’d like them to trade for a good young pitcher too. Either someone ready or on a roster. I’m looking at you Seattle. 
     

    i really think if the sign Bellinger they should trade PCA for the best young pitcher they can find. I don’t think they are going to reel in Bellinger though. 

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    1 hour ago, JD94 said:

    Though more risky, I’d rather give that type of money to 25 year old Yamamoto rather than 30 year old Nola. 

    I don’t think it’s “more” risky so much as they offer different things to a new team. The team signing Yamamoto is hoping for a starter with command, workloads, durability like Nola, especially since neither one is bringing huge velo. Probably there’s going to be a big gap in how FA treats them because of age, think Yamamoto gets more years and dollars spent with the posting fee included (say 6-7/240 v 6-7/180-210) 

    I’m probably most into trading for Logan Gilbert or MacKenzie Gore if they shake loose at SP over a FA. I like Brady Singer too with Stroman out, but that’s most cap fear that not wanting Nola 

    Edited by TomtheBombadil
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    12 hours ago, Bertz said:

    This is a takeaway I have too.  I've thought for a while the top end of the domestic FA market was a no go.  I'd still generally like to avoid it (give me one of the Japanese starters please), but someone like Jordan Montgomery certainly feels more likely than he did yesterday. 

    And with the resources available, one big signing, one big trade, and a couple smaller signings makes the most sense from a resource allocation standpoint.

    I think that's probably how it's going to go too.  Looks more likely the bat may come via trade, and SP via FA.

    Next season we will have a very deep farm at the AAA/AA levels with many guys knocking on the door with essentially no clear holes in terms of positions.  Given what we have in the farm upper levels and on the MLB team, I think 1B is the weakest position, followed by 3B.  Shaw is a better prospect than Mervis, and I'm not sure if they'd want to block Shaw at 3B longterm on a trade, and he'll move quickly through the minors (should start the year at AA), and he could be up the 2nd half of 2025 barring injury.

    Alonso makes the most likely big hitter acquisition IMO.  They have more quality options at DH next year and on the farm longterm than at 1B or 3B.  Bellinger fills short-term needs, but not longterm ones, and putting him at 1B longterm seems like a waste, and I think he did overachieve a bit last year and will regress somewhat so not interested in an overpay there.

    Longterm I do believe they'd have the payroll room to also sign one of Soto or Ohtani, but i'm not sure they'd want to go over the cap the next year or 2 to do it, or sign the massive deals needed. You gotta think Soto is going to sign for 13+ years.

     

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