The 2023 season was a much-needed resurgence for Marcus Stroman, until he was diagnosed with a rib cartilage fracture on August 16. The injury ended up sidelining him until September 15, when the Cubs activated him and placed him in the bullpen for the stretch run.
Before landing on the injured list, Stroman had earned his second All-Star Game selection. Through his first 16 starts, he went 9-4 with a 2.28 ERA and was well on his way to opting out of his contract with the Cubs and landing a big deal this offseason.
With his decision to opt out, Stroman left $21 million on the table, but in a starting pitching free agency class that didn’t look strong outside of Aaron Nola and Blake Snell, Stroman seemed to fit right in with the next tier of pitchers made up of Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Depending on the estimate you look at, Stroman’s next contract looks to be in the two-to-three-year range, totaling anywhere from $50 million to $75 million. With the premium around starting pitching this offseason, I would not be surprised to see a deal close to what Sonny Gray just signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now, with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the top landing spots that come to mind for Marcus Stroman.
The Baltimore Orioles should be in the market for a starting pitcher this offseason to help build upon a successful 2023 season. After coming out of the gate slow, the Orioles rotation finished the year with a team ERA of 3.75 in the second half, which ranked amongst the top five in the league.
At the beginning of November, Orioles general manager Mike Elias came out and said he would like to add a starter to pair with Grayson Rodriguez at the top of the rotation. As of right now, the rotation looks to be made up of Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, John Means, Dean Kremer, and Cole Irvin. While Bradish had a strong 2023, the rest of the rotation leaves a lot to be desired. John Means has a history of being a good major league pitcher, but he also suffered from a setback after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
After the departure of Kyle Gibson, Baltimore needs to find a way to make up the 192 innings he provided in 2023. Other than the injury Stroman sustained this past season, he has been durable throughout his career, in spite of all the questions about his frame.
Slotting Stroman near the top of the rotation could propel the Orioles to the next stage of their ascension. His profile as a predominantly ground ball pitcher should fare well in Camden Yards.
Stroman is also no stranger to pitching in the American League East after having started his career with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Boston Red Sox
Unlike the Orioles, the Boston Red Sox rotation ranked near the bottom of the league with a 4.68 starters ERA last season.
There have been many question marks surrounding this rotation for some time. Chris Sale’s health is the biggest one going into every new season at this point in his career. Stopgap signings like Corey Kluber, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill have not panned out the way the Red Sox hoped.
Enter Marcus Stroman.
As I mentioned with the Orioles, Stroman’s familiarity pitching in the AL East ballparks could help him thrive in Boston. However, I believe the biggest benefit that Stroman could provide is being a mentor to young right-hander Brayan Bello who, like Stroman, has a similar profiling sinker that he uses to generate ground balls at a higher rate.
To some, Stroman might not profile as the prototypical No. 1 starter, but that should not deter a team like the Red Sox from signing him and making him a strong 1B to Chris Sale’s 1A, assuming the latter is able to stay healthy next season.
Then again, the downside to signing a pitcher with Stroman’s ground ball profile is that the Red Sox’s infield defense ranked at the bottom of the league in Outs Above Average in 2023.
Despite ranking 28th in starting pitching ERA, the Reds were able to make a deep run this season, staying in playoff contention up until the end of the season.
Aside from their rotation’s overall poor performance, the Reds went a lengthy amount of time without the two starters they were hoping would lead the charge: Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo.
Still, there is a lot of upside in this rotation already. In addition to Greene and Lodolo, Andrew Abbott reached the majors in 2023 and flashed immense potential and optimism for his career going forward.
Spending money in free agency is not something the Reds have shied away from in the past. Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos are great examples of that. If this team is willing to go back to that kind of spending, it only makes sense to invest in the starting rotation. Especially with so many bright spots on the offensive side of the ball.
A predominantly ground ball pitcher should do well in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, which can sometimes scare off free agent arms. A veteran like Stroman could provide stability to an unproven rotation and leadership in a young clubhouse.
Los Angeles Dodgers
When you think of a landing spot for a higher-profile player, the Dodgers always jump to mind rather quickly. This situation is no different. However, the Dodgers actually seem like a particularly great fit this year, given all the uncertainty surrounding their rotation for the first time in what feels like forever.
Walker Buehler is returning from the Tommy John surgery that held him out of the whole 2023 season. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw, a staple of this rotation for years, is currently a free agent. While he seems likely to return to the Dodgers, he just underwent surgery that will hold him out until mid-2024.
After those two, Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepoit, and Gavin Stone are currently the only other options to piece together a starting five.
Though the Dodgers have been linked to the upper-tier starting pitchers available, such as Shohei Ohtani (who won’t pitch in 2024) and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Stroman wouldn’t just be a consolation prize.
The Stro-Show has demonstrated throughout his career that he is not afraid to take the ball in big games. From playoff starts to pitching in the WBC, the bright lights of Los Angeles shouldn’t impact Stroman’s ability to pitch at all.
Alongside Buehler, Stroman would give this starting rotation another front-of-the-rotation-type starter that they need going forward.
San Francisco Giants
This one may come as a surprise to some, but it should not.
President of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi has gone on record multiple times about not being shy to spend when it is needed. Do not look any further than the 2022-23 offseason when the Giants made an attempt to sign Arson, I mean, Aaron Judge and agreed to a contract with Carlos Correa before the deal fell through after a failed physical.
No, the Giants may not be one starter away from competing in the National League playoffs, but you cannot ever count them out. No matter what the consensus may be about their roster heading into any given year, they typically end up a part of the playoff race.
The Giants have been trying to piece together a consistent starting rotation for some time now. Outside of Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani and Ross Stripling are the only other options on the roster with more than one full season of major league experience. Left-handed prospect Kyle Harrison made his debut for the team last year, and while he flashed true potential, this rotation could still use a proven arm like Marcus Stroman.
The Giants have also been rumored to be involved in the Ohtani sweepstakes, but as I mentioned earlier with the Dodgers, Ohtani likely won’t see time on the mound in the upcoming season.
There were some reports near the trade deadline that Stroman was on the Giants’ radar before the Cubs decided not to sell. I would not be surprised if the Giants decided to revisit that plan now that Stroman is on the open market.