Yankees ignore the red flags and sign Stroman. But this can’t be their final move of the offseason

When Brian Cashman and the Yankees front office sought out to build the 2024 Yankees, they had a clear plan A: Juan Soto and Yoshinubo Yamamoto. They landed Soto almost immediately, but struck out on the Yamamoto sweepstakes. And the Yankees found themselves stranded with no plan B or C.

The pitching depth they had is now in San Diego, the available trade candidates have too high of a value to trade further assets for. And the next tier of starting pitchers of Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery want north of $200 million and the Yankees see that as a gross overpay for a 3rd starter.

So the Yankees, who had just 3 starting pitchers on their roster a month before pitchers and catcher report to Spring Training, did a very un-Yankees thing.

They signed a controversial player who does not fit the mold of a Yankees player. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

Thursday night Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman took to Instagram to break the news himself that he signed a 2 year-$37 million deal with the New York Yankees.

For his career, Stroman, 32, has a 3.65 ERA in nearly 1,400 innings pitched and has been a top-of-the-rotation starter in Chicago, Toronto and with the New York Mets. Stroman is a Long Island native and had success with the Mets, finishing his 2019 and 2021 seasons with them posting a 3.21 ERA in 44 starts.

On paper it seems like a steal for the Yankees to land a starter of that talent level for less than $20 million a year when the going rate for his services should be north of $25 million.

So why the discount? Well its not because he’s a hometown kid, rather his twitter fingers and willingness to throw himself into any and every confrontation own social media. Going through all his dust ups on twitter would make this an hour long read so we won’t go down that rabbit hole, but there are two instances which directly correlate to the Yankees that we can touch on.

Before Stroman was traded to the Mets in 2019, his father told Newsday that the right-hander “was hoping it was the Yankees a little bit.” Cashman said the team at the time had been interested in Stroman “but we didn’t think he would be a difference-maker. We felt he would be in our bullpen in the postseason,” the GM said. In a since-deleted tweet in 2020, Stroman wrote that there was “no current Yankee pitcher who will be anywhere in my league over the next five-to-seven-years” outside of Cole.

Another Yankee related issue which became rather big news in New York at the time was between Stroman and Yankees announcer Michael Kay. While a member of the Mets Stroman got into countless twitter feuds with fans, which Kay commented on his show stating Stroman’s twitter fingers do not help the Mets win so leave it alone and stop being a distraction.

Stroman got wind of these comments and went on a tangent, calling the Bronx native and voice of the Yankees racist for never having a black co-host on his radio show. (Kay has had one co host for all 22 years of his show so there was never an option for a new hire.)

Kay has already commented stating it will be a professional relationship while calling Stroman’s games but it will stay strictly business until Stroman apologizes and retracts the statement.

As for his beef with Cashman, must be water under the bridge assuming he inked Stroman to the deal.

But back to baseball, how will Stroman help the Yankees?

The Yankees subtracted 306.7 innings pitched from their starters last season with all of the moves they made this offseason (trading Michael King, Randy Vásquez, Jhony Brito and not signing Luis Severino nor Domingo Germán in free agency). Those innings needed to be replaced.

One of the ways the Yankees can do that is by having Rodón (64.1 innings) and Cortes (63.1 innings) simply pitch more and stay healthy. But it’s a risk going into the season thinking they’ll magically bounce back to 2022, when both were two of the best pitchers in MLB. So adding Stroman to a volatile rotation is one way to add innings. He’s averaged 144.8 innings per season over his nine-year career. Since 2019, Stroman is 29th in MLB for most starts made by a starting pitcher, and that includes him opting out of the 2020 shortened season.

Since starting his career in 2014, Stroman has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the sport. He’s one of seven pitchers (Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Sonny Gray) to have at least seven seasons of 20-plus starts and an FIP under 4.00. Stroman’s ERA has also not surpassed 4.00 in his last four seasons. Only twice has his ERA been higher than 4.00 in his nine seasons.

Last season with the Cubs, Stroman was a National League All-Star after posting a 2.96 ERA in 20 starts. After the All-Star break, Stroman dealt with right hip inflammation that limited him to just six starts and an 8.63 ERA. He failed to reach 140 innings for the second straight season, but if injuries are behind him, he will eat innings because that’s what he does.

Stroman is also different than the other Yankees currently slotted in their rotation in that he’s a groundball pitcher. Rodón, Cortes and Cole are all flyball pitchers. Because he’s a heavy groundball pitcher, Stroman usually keeps the ball in the park. His 0.59 HR/9 this past season ranked second in MLB behind Gray.

He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of player and someone you’d want as your third or fourth starter in the playoffs. Given his consistency, he should provide better results than what the Yankees had last season from their starters not named Cole.

With that said, this can’t be the final move.

The Yankees can’t stop with Marcus Stroman.

They don’t want to meet agent Scott Boras’ current price for Blake Snell. They seemingly can’t persuade Jordan Montgomery to forget that they traded him. And they evidently are balking at the White Sox’s ask for Dylan Cease and perhaps the Brewers’ ask for Corbin Burnes, too.

Well, sorry, the rotation the Yankees assembled — at a time when Gerrit Cole is entering his age-33 season, Aaron Judge his age-32 season and Juan Soto is under club control only through 2024 — is not good enough.

Whatever, the Yankees are settling for a pitcher that general manager Brian Cashman passed on at the 2019 trade deadline, saying, “We didn’t think he would be a difference-maker. We felt he would be in our bullpen in the postseason.” Stroman now is entering his age-33 season, after missing time with shoulder, hip and ribcage issues the past two years. And suddenly he is, what, the Yankees’ No. 2 starter?

If he wasn’t good enough in his prime years, how can you rely on him now to be that difference maker?

The Yankees made Snell an offer, according to the New York Post’s Jon Heyman. But Boras naturally wanted more, and the Yankees evidently fear Snell might be the same kind of poor fit in New York as Rodón was in his first season. Give the Yankees credit, I guess, for not wanting to double down, assuming the signing of a two-time Cy Young winner indeed would be a mistake. Perhaps it would be, considering Snell’s track record includes a combined 3.85 ERA in the four seasons between his Cy Youngs, the highest walk rate in the majors last season and a career average of fewer than 5 1/3 innings per start.

Montgomery seemingly wants to play for the Rangers, a team with whom he won a World Series, rather than the Yankees, a team that did not believe he was good enough for its postseason rotation, prompting his trade to the Cardinals at the 2022 deadline. Understandable. But perhaps a preemptive bid would erase whatever lingering resentment Montgomery might be harboring, and buy the Yankees more certainty.

Montgomery and Luis Severino, a two-time All-Star, were the Yankees’ best homegrown starting pitchers since Andy Pettitte. The team has been adept at developing starters, but in recent years has mostly used them for trades.

We could go on about missed opportunities involving hitters, from overhyping the Baby Bombers (only Judge and Gleyber Torres proved to be successes) to making ill-conceived trades for Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, Josh Donaldson and others. Dwelling on the past is useful if it leads to better decisions in the future. For the Yankees, the bigger issue is the present.

With Cole and Judge still in their primes, and Boras surely eager to take Soto to the open market, their urgency should be acute. They showed that with Soto. But they wouldn’t go past Cole’s guarantee with Yamamoto. And now they’ve ended up with Stroman.

The offseason isn’t over. The Yankees are likely to fortify their bullpen, perhaps upgrade other areas of their roster. Their quest for additional rotation help, however, needs to continue, or even accelerate. Maybe Snell’s price will fall. Maybe the Rangers, with their future local television revenues uncertain, will not be comfortable going long-term with Montgomery. Maybe the Yankees can just wait out the White Sox on Cease or the Brewers on Burnes, knowing that if they can’t get either pitcher by Opening Day, perhaps they can at the trade deadline.

Still, what are we talking about here? These are the New York Yankees, and they’re hanging around the backboard when they should be crashing the rim. Too many missteps in the recent past. Too many questions in the immediate future.

They can’t sit back and waste any more prime years of Judge and Cole.

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