Details of Marcus Stroman’s 3-Year Contract Show Cubs Want to Compete Now

Projections had Marcus Stroman getting well into nine figures over 5-6 years as a free agent, but the Cubs managed to bring him to Chicago for significantly less in both money and time. As Jeff Passan first reported, Stroman’s deal with the Cubs is for $71 million over three years and features an opt-out after the second season. He’ll earn $25 million in each of the first two years and will get $21 million if he opts into the third year.

The deal maxes out at $75 million because Stroman can get an extra $2 million if reaches 160 innings in either of the first two years. That’s a damn good agreement for both sides.

Stroman will turn 31 in May and should still be very productive through at least 2023, at which point he could re-enter the market ahead of his age-33 season for another shot at a big contract. The Cubs should be getting much better results from their pitching infrastructure at that point, so they’d be better able to replace him from within. And even if he’s not pitching well enough to earn more than $21 million on the open market, the limited commitment means he would not be bogging the rotation down for long.

Not that I expect such a rapid diminution of his talent, mind you. It’s just that even in the worst-case scenario, something Cubs fans are often too willing to accept as inevitable, this isn’t a bad deal.

When I first read a report that people around the league thought Stroman would draw a 5-6 year deal worth $25 million AAV, my reaction was that there was no way in hell the Cubs would do it. Even the more conservative MLB Trade Rumors projection of $110 million over five years seemed too steep. With that in mind, I somehow managed to say something that could be construed as prescient.

Unless Stroman really wants to pitch for the Cubs so badly that he’s willing to sign a shorter deal — maybe three years — I just don’t see this happening.

Nailed it, even if it did come after an explanation of why he wasn’t a very good fit at the higher cost. Excuse me for a second while I ice my shoulder after patting myself on the back so vigorously.

Another aspect of this deal that can’t be overlooked is that taking such a short term almost certainly means Stroman believes in the Cubs’ ability and desire to compete right away. He would not have agreed to just three — and maybe as few as two — years if he felt like it would just be as part of a bridge to a new window of competitiveness.

While this is just conjecture, I’d be willing to bet Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins presented Stroman with their strategy to turn things around quickly. That could include adding another starter, a premium glove at short, and perhaps some left-handed power at a corner spot. A little additional spending this season and a lot of financial flexibility in the future mean the Cubs can keep making moves while waiting for their development pipeline to really open up.

This move changes the entire complexion of the offseason and provides a lot of hope for 2022 and beyond.

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