Steve Cohen, the billionaire new Mets owner, has already accomplished one big thing this offseason — he convinced Marcus Stroman to come back to Queens on a one-year deal worth $18.9 million.
Stroman announced Wednesday that he is accepting the Mets’ qualifying offer — a rare move for an MLB free agent — and will return in 2021. On top of that, he cited Cohen’s introductory press conference on Tuesday as one of the reasons he’s excited to return to the Mets.
After watching the presser, I’m beyond excited to play for you sir. I could feel the excitement and passion you’re going to bring daily. Let’s go be great! @StevenACohen2
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) November 11, 2020
Cohen told Mets fans (and players, it sounds like) everything they wanted to hear — he talked about wanting to win a World Series title soon, about spending money like a big-market team and knowing his role as an owner, and letting the baseball people make baseball decisions. It stood in contrast to everything we know about the Wilpon era of Mets ownership.
He also replied to Stroman’s tweet:
Marcus , That is great news . Looking forward to meeting you soon.I will call you over the next few days to thank you .
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) November 11, 2020
Bringing back Stroman doesn’t automatically win the offseason for the Mets, but it’s a step in a good direction. They’ll still be in the hunt for Trevor Bauer, George Springer and J.T. Realmuto, this year’s top free agents.
Stroman accepting the qualifying offer is a bit of a surprise. After Bauer, he was the second-best pitcher available in free agency. But Stroman is betting on himself here — and betting on a slow market. He’s coming into free agency not having pitched in 2020 after opting out because of COVID-19. He’s faced injury issues over his career, but when healthy has proven he has a lot of upside.
The qualifying offer — a procedural move which awards draft-pick compensation if a free agent signs with another team — usually isn’t accepted. In fact, for years it was never accepted. Players always figured they could do better on the open market. But baseball free agency hasn’t been bustling in recent years unless you’re a Gerrit Cole or Bryce Harper-type of player. Teams especially don’t want to part with those draft picks.
Players — like Stroman — have begun to accept the deal more with its fixed annual salary. This year’s is $18.9 million. In all, six players received qualifying offers for 2021. Pitcher Kevin Gausman also accepted the qualifying offer from the Giants later in the day. The rest of the qualifying offer candidates — Bauer, Realmuto, Springer and DJ LeMahieu — declined. The deadline was Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.
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