Stroman said he made his decision for family reasons relating to COVID-19 and not because of his physical health. The right-hander hasn't pitched this season since tearing a calf muscle in summer camp, but said he's rehabbed from the injury and is "back to 100%."
The 29-year-old felt safe with the Mets and praised the team's commitment to proper health protocols. But it was the recent outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St Louis Cardinals - along with spiking numbers across the country - that ultimately cemented his choice to opt out, according to Tim Britton of The Athletic. The Mets are due to visit Miami, a COVID-19 hot spot, on an upcoming road trip.
"It makes you realize how hard it is to make sure that everything is buttoned up ... from every angle," he said, per Britton.
The Mets acquired Stroman, an All-Star in 2019, from the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of last year's trade deadline for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson. Unless he re-signs this offseason, the Long Island native's Flushing tenure will have amounted to a 3.77 ERA and 1.48 WHIP with 60 strikeouts and 23 walks over 11 starts last year.
Stroman, a Gold Glove winner who experienced success in the postseason with Toronto, has accrued enough service time and will still become a free agent this winter, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. Because of the shortened campaign, he only needed nine days of service time to clinch his free agency, according to Britton.
Former big leaguer Will Middlebrooks defended Stroman's decision:
"Everyone mad that Stro made sure he got his service time before opting out needs to realize that teams do this to players all the time," the 31-year-old said on Twitter. "Waiting to call kids up ... sending them down, to get an extra year of control/avoid arbitration. It's a business. Period."
While he'll explore the market, he enjoyed his time in New York and would "love to be a part of what they have going on," according to Justin Toscano of NorthJersey.com.
In the immediate term, Stroman's departure is yet another blow to the Mets' rotation behind ace Jacob deGrom. The team is already without All-Star Noah Syndergaard following his Tommy John surgery in March, while right-hander Michael Wacha landed on the injured list last week with shoulder inflammation.