Days after a handful of starting pitchers flew off baseball’s free agent market to contenders around the league, Marcus Stroman landed with a Cubs team that since July looked like it was rebuilding.
Which may raise the question: Why the Cubs?
“I mean, I think them going out and getting me kind of speaks to that point,” said Stroman of whether he got any clarity from the Cubs on their plans to compete.
"I think they're definitely not in a full rebuild. I think they definitely want to win now."
Stroman certainly will help the Cubs’ chances. They landed him on a three-year deal worth $71 million Wednesday, a splashy move that helps address their top offseason need, the rotation.
“For me, it’s always been about trying to build a roster that can compete [in 2022],” team president Jed Hoyer said Wednesday.
Stroman was one of the top starters available in free agency this winter. But as the market picked up in the last week ahead of baseball’s lockout, he was in no rush to land his deal.
“Mentally I had prepared myself that I was going to go until March without signing,” he said. “Me and my family, that's how we kind of just prepared. We were like, ‘All right, we’re just going to train, focus on family and then we'll see how this plays out.’”
Who can blame him? Stroman would be one of the most sought-after players post-lockout. The Cubs moved quickly in recent days to land him, adding a durable frontline starter to their staff.
An All-Star in 2019, Stroman has made 32+ starts four times since 2016. He holds a career 3.63 ERA and finished ninth in baseball in 2021 (3.02) while leading the game with 33 starts.
He gives the Cubs three experienced starters along with Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley. The top of the rotation already looks better than it did at the start of last season.
In other words, it improves the Cubs' chances to compete in 2022.
“Baseball’s a competitive sport," Stroman said. "You never know what you’re going to get going into any year.
“I actually don’t think you can go into any year and say it’s necessarily a rebuild. Because you can have a bunch of young guys play to an incredible level. You can kind of outplay how you’re predicted to play.”
Even Hoyer wants to add more pitching after the lockout as he shifts to infield help and the shortstop market.
And even with that, the Cubs haven't necessarily proved they're putting together a championship roster — especially when you consider Stroman is on a team-friendly deal without a trade clause, meaning his contract is as tradable as anyone's on the roster.
But Stroman doesn't see it that way.
"I'm excited to compete here and I'm coming in here to win," he said. "I'm not just coming in here just to come in here.
"I'm coming in here to compete and win with this group of guys that we have, and kind of bring that passion and that emotion and just let it show to the crowd."