Having spent just enough time in the majors to be a free agent this offseason, Marcus Stroman announced Monday that he opted out of the rest of the 2020 season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic — leaving his manager blindsided and the Mets’ rotation shorthanded.
Stroman did not pitch this year, missing the first 16 games with a left calf muscle tear that he said he has recovered from. That injury had nothing to do with this decision, which he characterized as a “collective family decision.”
He referenced immunocompromised family members, the Marlins and Cardinals outbreaks, COVID-19 spikes elsewhere in the country and the Mets’ trip to Miami — a recent hot spot — next week as factors in his decision.
“There are too many uncertainties, too many unknowns right now to go out there,” Stroman, a Medford native, said. “This is not something that I wanted. This is a collective decision from my family, for our best interests because I’m such a competitor. It was incredibly hard to finally come up with this decision.”
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said: “In the immediate term, this is about Marcus and wanting to make sure we’re supporting him and supporting his family and want to make sure that all players are factoring in their own individual circumstances when they make their decisions.”
That makes two Mets who left the team this month. When Yoenis Cespedes did so Aug. 2, the Mets said he also cited coronavirus reasons.
Technically, Stroman will move from the injured list to the restricted list. He will not receive his salary or major-league service time for the rest of the year, but he has enough service time to become a free agent after the season — a threshold he reached early this season.
Had he opted out before Opening Day, Stroman would still be under the Mets’ control for 2021. He said he is open to re-signing with the Mets.
“There's a lot that goes into that,” Stroman said. “But I can't say enough good things about this organization and my time here and everybody that's been involved.”
Either way, an injury and a pandemic limited Stroman to just 11 starts in about one and a half seasons with the Mets. They acquired him last summer from the Blue Jays for a pair of pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, an example of Van Wagenen’s willingness to part with significant prospect inventory to try to improve the major-league roster.
Kay, a Stony Brook native, is already a serviceable big-league pitcher, posting a 1.13 ERA (one run in eight innings) after winning a spot in Toronto’s bullpen. As one longtime talent evaluator said, “And Woods Richardson is better.”
Stroman's loving his time with the Mets extends to the team’s handling of health and safety protocols in this pandemic-shortened season. Stroman said the organization has done “the best job handling all the protocols out of any team in the big leagues.”
“The Mets are doing truly, truly, truly an incredible job,” he said. “You truly do feel safe here when you're at the clubhouse. They're going far and beyond to make sure we have that safety. So like I said, obviously the situation is different from team to team, but as far as being here in the clubhouse with the Mets, I truly felt safe and I loved it every second.”
Stroman said his teammates were “definitely upset” that he left. Manager Luis Rojas said he was “a little bit surprised” and “blindsided” when he found out about Stroman’s decision Monday morning, noting that all of his recent conversations with the righthander were about how well his calf rehabilitation was going.
But Rojas, like Van Wagenen, said he supported and understood Stroman leaving.
“We recognize that there are all sorts of challenges associated with this season,” Van Wagenen said, “and this is another one.”
MLB players who opted out of the 2020 season
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets
Marcus Stroman, Mets
Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
Welington Castillo, Nationals
Tim Collins, Rockies
Ian Desmond, Rockies
Isan Diaz, Marlins
Felix Hernandez, Braves
Jordan Hicks, Cardinals
Michael Kopech, White Sox
Mike Leake, Diamondbacks
Francisco Liriano, free agent
Collin McHugh, Red Sox
Shelby Miller, Brewers
Hector Noesi, Pirates
Buster Posey, Giants
David Price, Dodgers
Joe Ross, Nationals
Tyson Ross, free agent
Kohl Stewart, Orioles
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals