MLB Free Agency Ratings – Marcus Stroman signs good first move for Chicago Cubs ‘retooling’

The last time the Chicago Cubs rebuilt from the ground up, in 2012, it took four years — and in the end, it won them a World Series. This time, the front office promised Cubs fans a much faster process. On Wednesday, they took the first step toward fulfilling that commitment by signing free agent pitcher Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million deal.

Stroman, 30, was one of the best pitchers available this year. In Chicago, he will join Cubs mainstay Kyle Hendricks and newcomer Wade Miley in a revamped 2022 rotation. They still don’t have an ace, in the truest sense of the word, but the rotation is better today than it was yesterday.

And equally indicative of the Cubs’ expectations of their place in the broader baseball landscape: The deal includes an opt-out option after two seasons, a fact that will lead Cubs fans to believe a contender is around the corner. the street. Why spend so much in the short term if you’re not trying to earn?

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer says he wants to be nimble and calculated as he builds “the next great Cubs team.” In this way, Stroman fits Hoyer’s plan perfectly. He will earn a high annual salary, but it’s not a very long commitment, especially if he were to retire. Stroman earned a very similar annual salary to free agents Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman – but they both signed five-year contracts. Stroman’s shorter deal keeps the Cubs flexible as they move forward with their mini-rebuild — or “retooling,” as Hoyer has preferred to call it since ripping the band-aid off the band that earned him, at him and the organization, a World Series in 2016.

With stars Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber all gone, Hoyer has a clean slate to work with. He still has a lot of holes to fill but is committed to doing it methodically. In other words, the Cubs are not going to buy themselves a championship. It will be one player at a time. And Stroman is a very good starting point.

If Hoyer hits on some more moves — or a few young players take the next step — and the team is competitive in the very near future, they’ve got a really good pitcher to lead them. Otherwise, Stroman’s deal will be over soon enough and Hoyer can look for the next one. The right-handed veteran gives the team the ability to be more competitive than they were at the end of last season without tying them up financially for years to come.

Behind Stroman, Hendricks and Miley, there are still questions in the rotation. The Cubs will likely look to youngsters like Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson as well as veteran Alec Mills. Additions probably aren’t enough to win a championship — or even qualify for the playoffs — but it’s a start.

And the Cubs have players around the diamond who should continue to improve. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, acquired in Craig Kimbrel’s trade to the Chicago White Sox, is a contact maker. The same goes for infielder/outfielder Nico Hoerner. Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel were great stories in 2021, but the team still lacks star players with MVP credentials. Signing shortstop Carlos Correa would be an even clearer signal that the Cubs are moving quickly, but there’s no indication they’ll dip that much into the free-agent pool. Correa wants a massive commitment, and the Cubs probably don’t want to give it right now.

Hoyer promised the organization would get through this offseason, so early offers for Miley and backup receiver Yan Gomes were no surprise. But Stroman points to a bigger expense. He’s the first player to sign a three-plus-year contract since Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood before the 2018 season. That alone should tell fans the Cubs want to be competitive again.

There’s more to do, but this move seems like exactly the right start to Hoyer’s plan – and the key is the length of the contract. The Cubs have a good pitcher who will always allow them to pursue their longer-term goals.

Grade: B+

Neal T. Doss