Sports | August 11, 2020 11:40 am

Mets Pitcher Marcus Stroman Opts Out After Ensuring His Free Agent Eligibility

He was slated to make his first start against the Miami Marlins this Friday

Mets Pitcher Marcus Stroman Opts Out After Ensuring His Free Agent Eligibility
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It’s the most Mets thing to ever happen … since the last most Mets thing to ever happen.

New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman officially opted out of the season yesterday. That in itself is significant; he’s the team’s number two starter after Jacob deGrom, a former World Baseball Classic MVP, and the biggest name other than Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman to call it on this strange, shortened season.

But fascinatingly, Stroman hadn’t started a single game this year. He’s been on the IL nursing a sore calf, and was slated to make his first start this Friday against the Miami Marlins:

As ESPN’s MLB Insider Jeff Passan points out, Stroman practiced and traveled with the team for just enough games this year to reach six years of service time — the point at which baseball players are eligible to join a free agent class and sign with whatever team they wish. It’s unclear what sort of market there will be for free agents this offseason; after all, long before the pandemic, teams were refusing to pay market value to mid-tier stars, and now general managers and presidents have a legitimate excuse.

But assuming that Stroman felt uncomfortable all along about participating in a COVID-19 season, this was an efficient way to end the season on his terms and take control of his destiny into 2021 and beyond. Every MLB player has every right to look out for his own safety this year, and considering that franchises often manipulate the service time of players — they’ll often keep them in the minor leagues an extra month, no matter how good they are, to tack another year of control onto their service time — it’s refreshing to see a player wield some sway against a team.

Of all teams, though, of course it happened to the last-place Mets. While deGrom is off to a great start (2-0, 2.45 ERA), three Mets starters currently claim earned-run averages over 6.40. Stroman will leave a giant hole. At least if this thing gets ugly — and it could, Pete Alonso is slugging an anemic .308 — the regular season will all be over late next month.

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