Marcus Stroman leaning toward rejecting Mets qualifying offer

Marcus Stroman’s return would fill a need in the Mets rotation, but at this point it appears more likely the right-hander will test free agency than accept the team’s one-year offer. The pitcher

Marcus Stroman’s return would fill a need in the Mets rotation, but at this point it appears more likely the right-hander will test free agency than accept the team’s one-year offer.

The pitcher has until Wednesday to officially inform the Mets if he is accepting their qualifying offer for 2021 worth $18.9 million. Stroman, according to an industry source, is leaning toward rejecting that offer and seeking a multiyear deal on the open market.

In any other offseason, hitting the open market would be an obvious decision for a pitcher of the 29-year-old Stroman’s caliber. But with concern looming about MLB finances following a pandemic-shortened season that didn’t include fans in attendance until the postseason, there has been some thought within the industry that Stroman might take the qualifying offer.

“I would accept the qualifying offer,” a National League executive said. “He sat out a year, he’s not a big guy and he’s from [Long Island]. In a world where nobody claims a $10 million Brad Hand, it’s hard to turn your nose up to one year and $18.9 million.”

Hand, a top left-handed reliever, was recently placed on outright waivers by the Indians in an attempt to cut payroll.

Marcus StromanAnthony J. Causi

But a cautionary tale against accepting the qualifying offer might be Jake Odorizzi. The right-hander accepted the one-year offer from the Twins last offseason in an attempt to build up value and then missed most of this season with injuries, appearing in only four games and pitching to a 6.59 ERA. Odorizzi is among the pitchers available this offseason who could interest the Mets.

Stroman, citing COVID-19 concerns, opted out from the season in August as he neared return from a torn left calf. That decision weakened a Mets pitching staff that was already without Noah Syndergaard, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March.

But in a thin market for starting pitching, Stroman could still see an opportunity to get paid handsomely over multiple years, with Trevor Bauer perhaps the only free-agent starter who clearly rates ahead of him. Masahiro Tanaka, Charlie Morton, Kevin Gausman, James Paxton and Mike Minor are among the other available starters on the market.

The Mets obtained Stroman in a deal with Toronto at the trade deadline in 2019 as insurance against Zack Wheeler departing through free agency. Stroman went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.475 WHIP in 11 starts for the Mets that season, after he was selected to the All-Star Game with the Blue Jays.

By extending the qualifying offer to Stroman, the Mets will receive draft-pick compensation if he departs.

The Mets rotation could use arms, as Jacob deGrom, David Peterson and Seth Lugo are the only pitchers who ended the season in the team’s rotation set to return. Another potential starter, Steven Matz, struggled and was demoted to the bullpen during the season. Syndergaard is expected to miss at least the first two months of next season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

Steve Cohen tweeted that his introductory press conference as new Mets owner could come as soon as Tuesday. The 64-year-old Cohen added he was hopeful his $2.4 billion deal to buy the Mets from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz would close on Friday, though it’s possible it wouldn’t be finalized until early next week. Cohen was approved by MLB owners in a vote last Friday.

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