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Marcus Stroman accepts qualifying offer, will return to Mets in 2021

The Mets have one less rotation hole to fill.

Rather than test free agency, as he seemed committed to doing earlier this year, Marcus Stroman on Wednesday accepted the Mets’ one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to return to Queens. The move gives the Mets a bona fide starter to slot in their rotation behind two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.

Stroman could have rejected the Mets’ offer in search of a multi-year deal on the open market, which has historically been kind to starting pitchers of his ability. But current market conditions offered no guarantees, with many teams facing the challenges of lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By accepting the qualifying offer, Stroman can attempt to bolster his stock with a strong season before hitting free agency for the first time next winter.

Stroman immediately becomes the third-highest-paid player on the Mets’ 2021 payroll behind deGrom and second baseman Robinson Canó. Despite the expense, his return eases worries for a rotation that previously consisted only of deGrom and David Peterson. Beyond those two, the organization’s top in-house candidates are Seth Lugo and Steven Matz.

Even with Stroman back, the Mets are likely to pursue additional starters after losing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha to free agency. Top options include Trevor Bauer, Masahiro Tanaka, Corey Kluber, Kevin Gausman, James Paxton and more.