Marcus Stroman Arrives as Jason Vargas Departs in Mets Shuffle
When the Mets acquired the All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays on Sunday, he knew two things about his new team’s rotation.
First, he was joining a staff anchored by the Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and the flamethrower Noah Syndergaard.
Second, Stroman was aware of the likelihood that the rotation could look very different before he ever pitched for the Mets.
“Depending on what happens this deadline,” he said during a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon.
It turned out to be a prescient comment. Within hours of the call, Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen had made his second move of the week, shipping right-hander Jason Vargas to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for cash and Austin Bossart, a catching prospect.
It was an active afternoon for a team that swept the Pirates over the weekend to keep themselves within six games of the second wild-card spot, and a reminder that the Mets would continue to act as sellers until Wednesday at 4 p.m., when the trade deadline passes.
For Vargas, it was the end of a nearly two-season stint with the Mets that included highs like his pitching a shutout this year, as well as some pointed lows, like his threatening to knock out a reporter in the Wrigley Field clubhouse. His tenure in Queens concluded with him holding a 4.01 E.R.A. this season, which ranked second among the team’s starters.
For Stroman, a Long Island native, it meant starting over by coming home to New York after seven seasons in the Blue Jays organization.
“I think there’s so many guys in the rotation that can shut down any team at some point,” Stroman said of his new team. “And I feel like I’m capable of doing the same.”
Stroman’s tenure in Toronto did not end without a dose of surprise and drama. While he knew the Blue Jays were preparing to trade him, it was widely expected that he would end up with a team squarely in playoff contention. Instead, he ended up with the Mets, at fourth place in the National League East.
He admitted on Monday the move “definitely shocked” him and that there had been a bit of commotion after the Blue Jays’ loss to the Rays on Sunday, when he was informed of the trade. While several news reports described it as Stroman reacting angrily to being sent to the Mets, he only said he was explaining his opinion of the process to coaches and club officials in an exit interview.
“My energy is extremely authentic,” Stroman said Monday. “I love playing the game of baseball, I love competing. When I’m in between those lines it’s kind of a different savage, a different demon is out there.”
So while Yankees Manager Aaron Boone made it known last week that his players are the “savages” in New York, Stroman, who has an E.R.A. of 2.96, will nonetheless be suiting up for the Mets moving forward. He is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, and he added on Monday that he did not expect to be moved again this week after his initial discussion with Van Wagenen.
Stroman, who grew up in Medford, N.Y., was acquired in exchange for two of the Mets’ top pitching prospects: the left-handed Anthony Kay and the right-handed Simeon Woods-Richardson. When Stroman takes the mound next, he hopes to bring the high energy that has become his trademark.
“I kind of go to a dark place; I put myself where I want to be,” he said. “I’m very passionate and I’m very emotional. When I’m away from the field, I’m kind of the opposite.”
The Mets have been in a dark place most of the season. Whether it was Edwin Diaz blowing saves or Van Wagenen reportedly throwing a chair during a meeting with his coaching staff, members of the organization have expressed frustration regarding its failures to live up to win-now expectations that Van Wagenen announced in the off-season.
Even after the Stroman and Vargas deals, Van Wagenen’s front office is expected to be active in the trade market this week. Syndergaard and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler have both acknowledged that they know they may be dealt despite their desire to stay in Queens.
Meanwhile, Stroman asserted that he was a “New York fan” when he was growing up. He played a game at Shea Stadium as a boy and teamed with Mets starter Steven Matz on a travel team. Stroman expressed excitement about the prospect of teaming up again with Matz, who threw his first career shutout over the weekend.
“Every travel team I was on when I was younger, he was on my team,” Stroman said. “It’s going to be crazy to join him on this staff.”
Matz will offer Stroman some familiarity in the coming days. Until the trade deadline passes, though, Stroman knows what will be expected as a pitcher in New York.
“I know New York is obsessed with winning, and that’s how I am,” Stroman said. “I’m excited to have that pressure behind me.”
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