Mets fans are already feeling the impact of having Steve Cohen running the show in Queens.
After Cohen’s introductory press conference yesterday, where the he emphatically stated his intention to bring a championship to New York’s National League fans within the next “three to five years,” the newest MLB owner already has another piece of the puzzle less than 24 hours later.
Pitcher Marcus Stroman confirmed this morning that he has accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer, valued at $18.9 million.
This is interesting on multiple levels. For starters, Stroman opted out of the 2020 season, which would have been his only full season with the Mets, after being traded to New York from Toronto at the deadline in 2019. The 29-year-old former Duke Blue Devil made his debut in May 2014 with the Blue Jays. He has a career 3.76 ERA and 695 strikeouts over 146 games and 849.1 innings his six seasons in the league so far. In 2019, he posted a 3.22 ERA over 32 games (all starts) with the Blue Jays and Mets.
Despite opting out of the 2020 season after beginning the summer on the Injured List with leg problems, Stroman was likely going to be one of the most desired starting pitcher arms on the free-agent market this winter, and someone I had hoped the Red Sox would consider as they look to add to their own rotation. He would have had many interested teams, but just yesterday, he made his priorities clear when a baseball fan asked him about playing for the Chicago White Sox, in light of yesterday’s news about Tony La Russa’s DUI arrest and behavior in said situation earlier this year. Stroman replied that no amount of money would entice him to play for the disgraced manager, because he placed a higher value elsewhere.
Free agency is going to be interesting this winter, after a year that saw MLB teams losing millions due to the pandemic. Players like JD Martinez opted to opt-in to their contracts rather than risk it on the open market. But that’s not why Marcus Stroman is accepting New York’s qualifying offer.
Stroman has been open about loving his time with the Mets, but he says watching Cohen’s presser yesterday and seeing the new owner’s passion for the game is what solidified his decision to stay in Queens.
Stroman also ‘Liked’ several tweets from fans and media members that talked about ownership mattering, how much Cohen impressed in yesterday’s press conference, and general well-wishes. Teammate Dominic Smith reacted to the news with excited emojis, and fans and the New York media appear to be unanimously rejoicing. The free-agent market’s loss is undoubtedly their gain, and it’s astounding to see what a positive impact Cohen’s presence has already made for the franchise and its fans.
Cohen later responded to Stroman on Twitter, expressing his excitement at the new development. The new owner’s presence on Twitter continues to be an unfamiliar fascination; it’s rare for any team owner to have their own social media presence, let alone be publicly interacting with players and fans about the game and business.
Other teams around the league should take note of the reason behind Stroman’s decision, and both his and Cohen’s openness about it on social media, though the former is known for being one of the more vocal MLB players on social media.
Athletes want to play for teams that care about the game, not just the money to be made from it. Stroman likely could have gotten similar offers on the open market, so it would appear that Cohen’s attitude was the difference-maker for him. Baseball is a business, but it’s also a game beloved by millions. It’s nice to see love of the game from both a big-name player and a new owner. It’s especially great for Mets fans who’ve endured so much from their past ownership, to already feel this encouraging shift in mindset. Hopefully, it will have a positive ripple effect throughout the league.