Stroman excited to join Mets, ‘best staff in baseball’

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              New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman warms up before the teams baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Three days after being acquired in a surprising trade, Marcus Stroman joined the New York Mets on Wednesday and immediately declared his new team a playoff contender — this season.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind,” the All-Star pitcher said before the Mets beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 for their season-best sixth straight victory. “I’m excited to be here, throw my bullpen and get settled.

“I’m looking forward to making the playoffs this year and chasing it.”

The Mets sent two minor league pitching prospects to Toronto for the 28-year-old right-hander Sunday in a move that stunned many around baseball who expected the club to be a seller.

But after winning 12 of 16, the Mets are 52-55 and 4½ games out for the second NL wild card — although several teams are in front of them.

“We’ve got some momentum, we just have to keep going,” first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said on a conference call. “This team has shown resiliency. This team has earned the right to now go play meaningful games over the course of the next two months. I know they’re excited to go do that.”

Besides packing his belongings after spending 5½ seasons with the Blue Jays, Stroman said he spent much of the last few days hoping the Mets wouldn’t make another major deal before the deadline Wednesday afternoon.

“I was praying we didn’t trade any of those guys that were being talked about, (Zack) Wheeler and (Noah) Syndergaard, because I truly believe we can have the best staff in all of baseball,” Stroman said. “It’s extremely special. It’s already one of the best staffs and I hope to just come in and add to that.

“What we have is pretty special here. It’s getting down to that point where it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be wild and we’ll be right in the thick of things.”

The other members of New York’s rotation are reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and left-hander Steven Matz. After adding Stroman, the Mets opened a slot for him by trading left-hander Jason Vargas to Philadelphia for a minor league catcher.

Van Wagenen said the Mets had talks with the Blue Jays about Stroman going back to last offseason, and the clubs had even exchanged names in previous proposals. Stroman is eligible for arbitration this winter and under club control through next season.

“Our focus at this trade deadline was going to be to try to see if we could improve the team not only for the rest of this year but also as we look toward the offseason and heading into 2020,” Van Wagenen said.

He said Stroman “creates all sorts of flexibility for us as we head into decision making in the offseason.”

“By making this deal for Marcus, it gives us that chance to be better right now. And he’s going to take the ball this weekend, and we get to see how this five-man turn can go, night after night,” Van Wagenen said.

Stroman, who was 6-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 21 starts for the Blue Jays this season, will make his Mets debut Saturday night at Pittsburgh. He’ll wear No. 7 with the Mets after wearing No. 6 in Toronto.

“I wore 7 in college,” he said. “I’ve always worn single digits my whole life, 6 or 7. (Jeff) McNeil’s got 6. I thought it would be a good time to change and go back to my Duke days.”

No. 7 also connects him with longtime Mets shortstop and former Toronto teammate Jose Reyes.

“He’s been one of my guys from the very start of it,” Stroman said. “We’ve kept in contact all these past years. He was pretty excited about it.”

Stroman also spent a little time Wednesday catching up with Matz. The two grew up together on Long Island, about 50 miles from the Mets’ home at Citi Field.

“It’s crazy,” Stroman said. “The last time I saw him on a baseball field we were extremely young. We played all growing up, so to be in the same clubhouse on the big league level, it’s crazy.

“I’m sure our parents are going bonkers back home.”