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MLB free-agency grades – Marcus Stroman signing a superb first transfer for Chicago Cubs’ ‘retool’

The final time the Chicago Cubs rebuilt from the bottom up, again in 2012, it took 4 years — and ultimately, it received them a World Sequence. This time, the entrance workplace has promised Cubs followers a a lot faster course of. They took step one in fulfilling that dedication on Wednesday, signing free-agent pitcher Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million contract.

Stroman, 30, was one of the better pitchers out there this 12 months. In Chicago, he’ll be part of Cubs mainstay Kyle Hendricks and newcomer Wade Miley in a revamped 2022 rotation. They nonetheless haven’t got an ace, within the truest sense of the phrase, however the rotation is healthier at this time than it was yesterday.

And simply as telling for the Cubs’ expectations of their place within the bigger baseball panorama: The deal consists of an opt-out after two seasons, a truth that may lead Cubs followers to imagine a contender is across the nook. Why spend that a lot within the quick time period should you’re not attempting to win?

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer claims he needs to be nimble and calculated as he builds “the following nice Cubs crew.” In that means, Stroman is a transparent match for Hoyer’s plan. He’ll make a excessive annual wage, but it surely’s not a extremely lengthy dedication, particularly if he have been to decide out. Stroman earned a really related yearly wage to that of free brokers Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman — however they each signed five-year offers. Stroman’s shorter deal retains the Cubs versatile as they transfer via their mini-rebuild — or “retool,” as Hoyer has most well-liked to name it since he ripped the Band-Assist off the group that received him and the group a World Sequence in 2016.

With stars Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber all gone, Hoyer has a clear slate to work with. He nonetheless has loads of holes to fill however has dedicated to doing it methodically. In different phrases, the Cubs aren’t going to purchase themselves a championship. That is going to be one participant at a time. And Stroman is an excellent place to start out.

If Hoyer hits on another strikes — or a few younger gamers take the following step — and the crew is aggressive within the very close to future, it has an excellent pitcher to guide them. If not, Stroman’s deal shall be over fairly rapidly and Hoyer can search for the following one. The veteran right-hander provides the crew the power to be extra aggressive than it was to finish final season whereas not tying it up financially for years to return.

Behind Stroman, Hendricks and Miley, there are nonetheless questions within the rotation. The Cubs possible will look to children akin to Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson together with veteran Alec Mills. The additions most likely aren’t sufficient to win a championship — and even get to the postseason — but it surely’s a begin.

And the Cubs have gamers across the diamond who ought to proceed to enhance. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, acquired within the Craig Kimbrel commerce with the Chicago White Sox, is a contact-maker. So is infielder/outfielder Nico Hoerner. Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel have been good storylines in 2021, however the crew nonetheless lacks star gamers with MVP credentials. Signing shortstop Carlos Correa can be an excellent clearer sign the Cubs are transferring rapidly, however there’s been no indication they’re going to dip that closely into the free-agent pool. Correa needs an enormous dedication, and the Cubs most likely do not need to give that out proper now.

Hoyer promised the group would spend this offseason, so early offers for Miley and backup catcher Yan Gomes have been no shock. However Stroman indicators an even bigger expenditure. He’s the primary participant signed to a three-plus-year deal since Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood earlier than the 2018 season. That alone ought to inform followers the Cubs need to be aggressive once more.

There’s extra to do, however this transfer appears like precisely the best begin to Hoyer’s plan — and the secret is the size of the contract. The Cubs obtained a superb pitcher who will nonetheless enable them to observe via on their longer-term targets.

Grade: B+

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