Amid a bunch of questions about the Mets’ 2021 rotation, the team plans to make righthander Marcus Stroman a qualifying offer ahead of the Sunday deadline, a source said Saturday.
Also, righthanded reliever Brad Brach exercised his player option for next season, according to a source. He is due a salary of $2.075 million.
Both developments were expected and are the sort of early-offseason housekeeping that all clubs engage in at this time of year. The only similar decision the Mets are left waiting on is whether Dellin Betances will pick up his player option ($6 million salary) or take a buyout ($3 million).
The qualifying offer is a one-year contract for $18.9 million. Stroman and other players who are extended a qualifying offer have 10 days to make a decision.
If he accepts, he will return to the Mets for 2021 at that price, filling one of the several holes they have in their rotation.
If he declines, he will remain a free agent and the Mets will receive a bonus pick in the 2021 draft when he signs with another team.
That Stroman is getting a qualifying offer answers the first in a series of rotation-related questions facing new owner Steve Cohen, incoming team president Sandy Alderson and the front office.
For now, the Mets have only a pair of starting pitchers who can be counted on for anything at the start of next season: ace Jacob deGrom and lefthander David Peterson, who as a rookie had a 3.44 ERA in 10 games in 2020.
Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery in March, is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. Steven Matz endured a disaster of a year, posting a 9.68 ERA in nine games (six starts). Seth Lugo’s role is uncertain after his seven-start de facto audition. Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, like Stroman, are free agents.
That leaves the Mets needing to add perhaps three starters to fill out the rotation.
At the top of the market is righthander Trevor Bauer, who led the National League with a 1.73 ERA and is the likely NL Cy Young Award winner.
Among the other options besides Stroman: Charlie Morton, who grew up in southwestern Connecticut and has Long Island roots on his dad’s side of the family; the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton; Rich Hill, who is injury-prone and turning 41 but has a 2.92 ERA the past six seasons, and Taijuan Walker, a former top prospect who still is only 28 and seemed to figure it out with the Mariners and Blue Jays last season.
Stroman, a former star at Patchogue-Medford, joined the Mets in a July 2019 trade with the Blue Jays, with Anthony Kay (a Ward Melville alumnus) and Simeon Woods Richardson heading the other way.
In 11 starts down the stretch that season, he had a 3.77 ERA, right in line with his career average. But he hasn’t pitched since.
After missing the start of the shortened 2020 season because of a left calf injury, Stroman spent the first two-plus weeks rehabbing. On Aug. 10, shortly after he accrued enough service time to become a free agent this offseason, he told the Mets he was opting out of the 2020 season, citing concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In six major-league seasons, Stroman, 29, has a 3.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He has reached the 200-inning mark twice (204 in 2016 and 201 in 2017) and was an All-Star in 2019.
Stroman recently wrote on Twitter that he is "taking my mind and body to new heights in the future" with the help of a new Pilates routine, and he frequently expresses great expectations for himself.
As he captioned an Instagram video of a catch session on Saturday: "Just watch these next 5-7 years."