Halfway through the season, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Marcus Stroman would decline his player option for 2024, poised for a major payday in free agency. Then, a pair of injuries led to the wheels falling off his season - putting us in an entirely new scenario now: one that makes his return next year feel almost sort of inevitable.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic feels similarly, not even bothering to list potential fits outside of the Cubs in his start-of-the-offseason top 40 free agents predictions piece (subscription required).
At this point, it feels like we need to start viewing the Cubs' offseason plans through the lens that Stroman - and his $21 million salary - are on the books for 2024. That, of course, will impact the front office's decision-making when it comes to Kyle Hendricks and his team option for next year, given the other needs Chicago has to address this winter.
Cubs should expect Marcus Stroman back in the fold in 2024
Having Stroman back is hardly a bad thing. The guy put the team on his back early in the year, pitching like an ace before things went sideways. But I think it's important to do some level-setting right now, as well. He's probably not going to be that good - but he's not going to be the disaster he was late in the year, either.
Stroman pitched to a 3.95 ERA and 3.58 FIP in 2023; more or less, that's what he's done in his career: a 3.65 ERA and 3.63 FIP - and that's just fine. Slotting him in to the #2 or #3 spot in the rotation behind Justin Steele (and, hopefully, another top-tier arm) sets the Cubs up well, especially when you look at the possibility of a starting three in a postseason series.
Heading into November, it would be a big surprise if Stroman opts out - and it's worth noting: he's not eligible to receive a qualifying offer. So that won't be factor into that decision.