Cubs give Stroman 3-year, $71M deal to improve rotation

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CHICAGO – Marcus Stroman rushed to the airport and caught a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago as soon as he got the word from his agent.

The right-hander arrived just in time with a lockout looming to complete a three-year, $71 million contract. And the Cubs landed one of the top remaining starting pitchers on the free agent market.

“It’s one of the best franchises in all of sports and fan bases as well, so it’s extremely appealing to me,” Stroman said. “It sells out every single night. To pitch in front of that electric crowd is something that kind of draws me.”

Stroman gets $25 million in each of the next two seasons and has a $21 million player option for 2024. His option price could increase by $2 million each for 160 innings in 2022 and ’23.

Stroman announced he was leaving the New York Mets for Chicago in a series of tweets hours before the labor contract between players and owners was set to expire. The Cubs later confirmed the deal.

Stroman said the deal came together “really fast” and his “senses were kind of heightened” once agent Broderick Scoffield told him the Cubs were interested. He’s also looking forward to pitching at Wrigley Field for the first time. He toured the famed ballpark on Wednesday after completing his physical and medical tests.

“The city has been incredibly welcoming on socials, and I’m excited. This fan base is incredible, so I can’t wait to pitch here,” Stroman said.

Improving the Cubs’ pitching was a priority for president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer after the team ranked among the worst in baseball with a 4.87 ERA. The 30-year-old Stroman figures to give the rotation a huge boost. He went 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA and tied for the major league lead by making 33 starts for the Mets this year.

Stroman was an All-Star with Toronto in 2019 before getting traded to New York that season, then sat out the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is 61-60 with a 3.63 ERA over seven seasons with the Blue Jays and Mets.

Stroman figures to anchor the Cubs’ rotation along with Kyle Hendricks and newcomer Wade Miley. Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson are also in the mix for starting spots.

The Cubs are retooling after going 71-91, their first losing record since 2014. They claimed Miley off waivers from Cincinnati on Nov. 7.

Chairman Tom Ricketts said in an October letter to fans that the Cubs would “be active in free agency and continue to make thoughtful decisions to bolster our team this offseason.” Stroman said his deal shows the team is serious about winning again soon.

“I think they’re definitely in not a full rebuild,” Stroman said. “I think they definitely want to win now. Obviously, this is a city that’s an incredible fan base and baseball’s a competitive sport. You never know what you’re going to get going into any year.”

Chicago also finalized contracts with catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Clint Frazier on Wednesday.

Gomes agreed to a $13 million, two-year deal that includes a club option for 2024.

The Cubs also have Willson Contreras behind the plate, but he is eligible for free agency after next season and the team could decide to trade him if the sides can’t reach a long-term deal this winter. Chicago also could use Gomes to provide more rest for Contreras, who turns 30 in May.

The 34-year-old Gomes played for Washington and Oakland this year, batting .252 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in 103 games.

Frazier agreed to a one-year contract after batting .186 with the Yankees last season. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, he hit .239 in five seasons for New York.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.