Marcus Stroman injury adds layer of intrigue when it comes to the Cubs and his 2024 player option

The veteran right-hander will not return from the IL on Wednesday as expected - and depending on when he returns, the Cubs' offseason could be impacted.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

Oh, boy. No one really worried about moving a struggling Drew Smyly out of the starting rotation and giving Javier Assad a longer look given how well he's pitched as a spot starter of late, but that was, at least in part, because Marcus Stroman was lined up to return from the IL this week.

Now we know that won't be the case, with 'right rib discomfort' knocking the All-Star from his scheduled start on Wednesday against the White Sox.

Chicago is heading into a weak stretch in their schedule - one in which they have an opportunity to make up ground in the division and wild card races - and having the rotation at full strength certainly would've been nice. Hopefully this is just some soreness that only pushes his return back to maybe this weekend, but we'll have to wait and see.

Even prior to the IL stint, it was clear something was pretty wrong with Stroman based on the results. In the 9 starts leading up to his hitting the shelf, he was hammered to the tune of a 9.00 ERA and .318 opponent bating average. So it's important to remember that it's not just about getting him back on the mound. It's about getting him back on the mound at 100%.

Cubs: Will this injury change how Marcus Stroman approaches his opt-out decision?

But looking past the next few weeks for a moment, it's worth wondering if this injury lingers and costs him a good chunk of the rest of the season, what impact there could be on his decision regarding a $21 million player option for 2024.

At the season's halfway point, it was all but guaranteed he'd opt out and test free agency and, to be fair, that's probably still the case. Even if he lost the rest of the year because of injury, there's definitely a team out there that would give him more than one year in free agency. But it could drive down his asking price - or at least what the market will give him - which could open the door to a lower-cost reunion with the Cubs.

This winter's class of arms is loaded with quality starters and you know Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins already have a wish list made up. Whether or not Stroman is on it remains to be seen, but he'll probably be in the mix given what he's done in his two seasons on the North Side.


Obviously, the focus right now is getting him back on the mound and effective for the stretch run. Chicago has its eyes set on returning to the postseason this year - and they'll need Stroman to not only get there, but have a chance to make a run in October.