Friday, January 12, 2024

Marcus Stroman is a Yankee? ...


Marcus Stroman (Credit: @stroman via Instagram)

Stroman unexpectedly dons the Pinstripes…

Assuming the New York Yankees have chosen to move on from Blake Snell after he rejected the team’s 5-year, $150 million offer, I hope the pivot to Marcus Stroman, pending his physical, does not represent the end game. The Yankees need an upper-rotation starter to potentially place behind Gerrit Cole if Carlos Rodón is unable to pitch like the dude he was in San Francisco in 2022. The 32-year-old Stroman is not that guy.

I have mixed emotions about Stroman. I do not like the player, and I thought his war of words in recent years was childish along with the now-overplayed video of Stroman mocking the Soto Shuffle after striking out Juan Soto during a Cubs-Padres game. I am a little surprised the Yankees forgave Stroman for the shots he took at the organization and GM Brian Cashman a few years ago, but I get it, thick skin is a necessity in the Wide World of Sports. If the player has something to offer, the reward becomes more valuable than the risk in the eyes of the team (sometimes to a fault). Granted, acquiring Juan Soto was a popular move among the Yankees fanbase but the Yankees do not make moves designed solely to get fans excited as we have seen far too often. They want to win regardless of who we feel should be on the team. It is funny that Cashman has plucked two of the most despised competitors after the fan base had to painfully endure the hated Josh Donaldson. The social media posts saying the Yankees should go all out for Jose Altuve since they are collecting hated players are funny but hopefully, Cashman never takes it that far.

I am one of many Yankee fans who have been blocked on X (Twitter) by Stroman. My crime was saying that I did not want to see him play for the Yankees despite his talent. Now that he is a Yankee, I have no choice but to accept it (obviously). I am willing to give him a chance. It is on Stroman to prove he can be a capable Yankee. If he succeeds, everybody will be happy. If he fails, it is going to be a long two years for him.

Stroman effectively replaces Luis Severino who has joined the crosstown Mets. I know, Sevy left the bar quite low on his way out the door, so Stroman immediately became the better pitcher when he signed with the Yankees. As much as I loved Sevy as a Yankee, I feel better about the state of the starting rotation with Stroman. Honestly, I hope Severino can recapture the potential he once held, even if he is pitching for the Mets. But switching Severino out for Stroman was a move the Yankees had to make.

Marcus Stroman (Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

They cannot stop here. Another…a better…starter is needed. If Snell is out, do the Yankees pivot to Jordan Montgomery? It does not seem like there has been much fire between Monty and the Yankees. The Miami Marlins do not seem overly motivated to trade Jesus Luzardo and there is some talk the Chicago White Sox may hold onto Dylan Cease. Regardless, the price tags on Luzardo and Cease are astronomical. The best current option is Cleveland’s Shane Bieber who can be acquired without forking over multiple elite prospects. Bieber’s recent injury history is a concern, but when healthy, he can be one of the game’s best. I would love to see a reunion between Bieber and Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake.

Shane Bieber (Photo Credit: Dave Richard/USA TODAY Sports)

Regardless of what happens, it seems a given that pitchers will get hurt, and we will be looking at starts by Triple-A pitching depth at some point this summer.  If Bieber is the prime pitching acquisition, so be it. There are flaws with every available pitcher. The Yankees would be charged with placing Bieber in the best possible position to succeed if they are successful in acquiring him. He would not carry the burden of being the staff ace like he does in Cleveland. Sure, I would prefer Montgomery or Snell…or Cease or Luzardo…but the Yankees with Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, Alex Verdugo, Marcus Stroman, and potentially Shane Bieber are a much better team than the 82-80 squad of last year. The Yankees need to retain their current pitching depth (the organization guys like Clayton Beeter and Luis Gil, the returning Luke Weaver, and the new acquisitions such as Cody Poteet and Cody Morris) to help fill in for potential injuries. Top pitching prospect Chase Hampton should be available to help later in the season so keeping him is important. I am feeling better about the Yankees than I did a few months ago. It will be those final decisions (adding another starter and bullpen help) that will determine if this has been a good off-season for the Yankees or a great one. I will add a caveat that if the Yankees sign Juan Soto to an extension before Spring Training, that alone would convert this to a great off-season regardless of what the team does going forward. The one-year “rental” of Soto is the only reason I can go no stronger than “good” right now. The excitement about Soto in 2024 Pinstripes is tempered by the fact he could be in a different uniform in 2025.

Back to Stroman, I should take back that I dislike the player. It was more I did not appreciate his words and actions. I do not know the man personally, and I have always recognized that he is a talented pitcher. If you told me that I had to take one of Stroman, Trevor Bauer, or Domingo German, I would take Stroman every day of the week. Now that he is a Yankee, I do believe he deserves the opportunity for redemption. I was not so forgiving of Josh Donaldson, but I also do not believe that Stroman is washed up like Donaldson was when he joined the Yankees. I was not happy when I heard the Yankees had signed Stroman, but after a day, I felt better about the team’s decision to improve the starting rotation. I will not boo Marcus Stroman unless he gives us reason to as we move forward. The slate is cleared. When he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium, our interests will be aligned. I wish him the best as he embarks on his Pinstriped career.

There had been some talk the Yankees were interested in free agent pitcher Jordan Hicks as a piece for the bullpen, however, he has signed with the San Francisco Giants and will be converted from a reliever to a starter. With Hicks off the board, it makes Robert Stephenson the reliever to add. I seriously doubt the Yankees will pay top dollars for Josh Hader, so he does not appear to be an option unless his price falls.

I am glad to see Major League transactions are happening now that we have made it through the holiday season. There are talented players available who can help return the Yankees to championship contention. I am cautiously confident that Brian Cashman is not finished. At the end of the day, we will root for the team that takes the field on Opening Day 2024 so regardless of what happens or who is acquired (or not acquired), 2024 is a new season. We have hope. Selfishly, I want to be given reasons to heighten expectations, yet I will stand with the team we are given. Not trying to let Cashman off the hook, but rather trying to be a realist. The payroll is busting $300 million, and we have some of the game’s best players on the team. We have more than the average team. Maybe not as much as the Los Angeles Dodgers and their wealth of salary deferments, but the game is played on the field. I will take the Yankees for the win every time until the last game is played.

Yankees Settle All Pre-Arb Cases

The painful memory of Dellin Betances losing his salary arbitration case to the Yankees, worsened by the gloating of Yankees Team President Randy Levine, has not been forgotten. It happened seven years ago next month, however, it is the last time the Yankees failed to settle one of their pre-arbitration cases. The Yankees had a potential obstacle this year with Juan Soto, so I was extremely pleased when I heard the Yankees had settled all their cases.

For Soto, his 2024 salary of $31 million sets a new arbitration record, besting the Los Angeles Angels’ final year of Shohei Ohtani by $1 million. I was hoping the Yankees and Soto would negotiate a longer-term extension as opposed to the one-year salary, but it is Scott Boras’s world, and we only live in it. I still think the revelation and announcement of a contract extension during Spring Training would be a beautiful thing so I will keep believing it until it does not happen. The realist knows that Scott Boras will want to pit the game’s biggest spenders against each other before Soto’s next contract is determined.

Juan Soto (Credit: @juansoto_25 via Instagram)

Here are the agreements reached with the following players:

OF Juan Soto, $31 million

2B Gleyber Torres, $14.2 million

OF Alex Verdugo, $8.7 million

RHP Clay Holmes, $6.0 million

OF Trent Grisham, $5.5 million

LHP Nestor Cortes, Jr, $3.95 million

C Jose Trevino, $2.73 million

RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, $2.5 million

RHP Clarke Schmidt, $2.025 million

LHP Victor Gonzalez, $860,000

I am glad there will be no arbitration hearings this year. It is always best to keep Randy Levine muzzled.

As always, Go Yankees!