Veteran hurler Marcus Stroman ended his foray into free agency right before the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired as he signed a very reasonable three-year, $71 million pact with the Chicago Cubs. Given that the SF Giants still have work to do on the starting rotation, did they miss an opportunity in signing Stroman?
Did the SF Giants miss an opportunity with Marcus Stroman?
From a financial perspective, the Giants have committed approximately $136 million (including projected arbitration salaries) against the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT). We do not know what next year's CBT threshold will be, but it was $210 million in 2021.
Even if there is no change with the CBT threshold in 2022, the Giants still have $74 million in available spending. This is all to say that they could have easily afforded Stroman's contract.
Beyond that, the 30-year-old starter's skill set aligns well with what the Giants seek in pitchers. Obviously, the Giants can never have enough All Star pitchers of Stroman's caliber but the fit goes beyond that.
The veteran righty registered a 3.02 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, and a solid 3.59 SO/W ratio in 33 starts for the New York Mets last season. This was the fourth time in his seven-year career that Stroman made over 30 starts in a season.
That type of durability is important to a team like the Giants, especially considering that the back-end of the rotation will feature both Alex Wood and Alex Cobb. The front office cannot expect either pitcher to make 30 starts in 2022, but they could have expected that with Stroman.
Beyond durability, Stroman commands the strike zone well and does not issue an excessive number of free passes. His 3.59 SO/W ratio is one of the better marks in baseball and one that would have fit well with the Giants given that their pitching staff led baseball with a 3.43 SO/W rate in 2021.
Furthermore, the longtime Toronto Blue Jays pitcher induced a ground ball in 50.8 percent of batted ball events last year, which was the seventh-highest mark among qualified starters. Of course, the Giants did not slack in that area as they had the highest ground ball rate in baseball at 45.6 percent. Getting the ball into Brandon Crawford's glove is not a bad strategy for any pitcher.
Recording strikeouts, limiting walks, and keeping the ball on the ground are all ingredients to a successful pitcher for the Giants. Logan Webb (4.39 SO/W rate, 60.9 GB %) and Alex Wood (3.90 SO/W rate, 50.8 GB %) are a couple of examples of pitchers who excelled in those areas in 2021.
Perhaps, one of the bigger red flags with Stroman is that he does not rely on premium velocity. The righty's average fastball velocity was recorded at 92 MPH last season, which is the lowest mark of his career.
With that being said, the Giants could have easily taken on the risk if that was an issue at all. On a three-year deal for a pitcher who will be entering his age-31 season in 2022, there is still a lot of good baseball left for Stroman even as the velocity regresses.
Cost was not a factor as the Giants could have afforded Stroman with ease. He does a lot of good things on the mound and would have been a good fit for San Francisco over the next few seasons. It feels like this was a missed opportunity by the front office to bolster the front-end of the rotation in a meaningful way.