Marcus Stroman can opt out after this season but would ‘love’ to remain a Cub for the rest of his career

Per sources, because of the nature of Stroman’s contract, his camp and the Cubs opened preliminary extension talks this spring.

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Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman has put together seven quality starts in eight outings this season. File photo.

Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman has put together seven quality starts in eight outings this season. File photo.

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MINNEAPOLIS — The better Marcus Stroman continues to pitch, the more it makes sense for him to opt out of the final year of his three-year, $71 million contract with the Cubs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s on his way out after this season.

“I’ve been open with the front office here, been very vocal that I want to be here and I want an extension, that I don’t want to honestly make it to free agency,” Stroman told the Sun-Times. “But I’m also very confident in my abilities in free agency. I’ve always bet on myself.”

Because of the nature of Stroman’s contract, his camp and the Cubs opened preliminary extension talks this spring, sources told the Sun-Times. They have not picked up during the season, and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said after finalizing a three-year extension with Ian Happ last month that he didn’t see the Cubs negotiating with anyone else during the season. But they could make an exception as Stroman’s opt-out decision draws nearer.

Stroman (2.28 ERA) is off to a hot start. He began the year with 14 consecutive scoreless innings, which was the fourth-longest stretch to open a Cubs season in modern history. Seven of his eight outings have been quality starts. He’s scheduled to start Sunday against the Twins.

“What he brings to the field every day, you’ve got a pretty good understanding of what he’s going to be and who he is as a pitcher,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “And when he’s been right, he’s not a guy that you have to worry about going three times through the order. He’s very consistent.”

This year, Stroman has built off the foundation he formed with the coaching staff in his first season in Chicago. And he has shown an openness to sharing ideas and techniques with teammates, notably younger players, including starter Hayden Wesneski, pitching prospect Ryan Jensen and outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Entering Saturday, Cubs starters had the third-best ERA (3.35) in the National League. And as the Cubs look to attack their competitive window, they’re going to have to keep leaning on, and reinforcing, their starting pitching.

After this season, the Cubs have Jameson Taillon under contract for another three years, and Justin Steele and Wesneski under club control for longer. Drew Smyly has a 2024 player option. But veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks’ future with the Cubs is uncertain. He has a $16 million club option for next year.

The Cubs also have promising arms coming up through their system.

They’re excited about Ben Brown’s potential. He has an 0.84 ERA in two Triple-A starts after being promoted a couple weeks ago. Caleb Kilian had a tumultuous introduction to the big leagues but also has shown upside. The list goes on.

Developing starting pitching is the goal for every team, but it’s hard to build an entire rotation with young or homegrown arms. A stabilizing veteran presence is valuable on any staff.

“I truly love everything about this organization,” Stroman said. “Being someone who’s [going into] year 10 in the big leagues, I value that. And I love going out into the buzz at Wrigley every time I go out to pitch every fifth day. The organization, top down, how they handle the players, how they handle the families, how they operate, I love everything about it. So I would love to be a Cub for, honestly, the rest of my career and sign one more deal and be done.”

Stroman is expected to weigh those non-financial factors. But he also has been comfortable testing the free-agent market. After being traded to the Mets in 2019 and opting out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he accepted the qualifying offer and hit free agency again the next season.

“I like the market,” Stroman said. “I perform well when odds are stacked against me.”

The better his performance this season, the more robust the offers will be if he hits free agency.

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