The Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman had their chips all in on landing star international pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. He was their primary target after securing Juan Soto to reinforce the outfield.
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to convince Yamamoto to join their ranks, leaving the Yankees scouring the second-tier pitching market for alternatives. While Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell are obviously great pitchers coming off career seasons, investing big money in players over 30 years old doesn’t seem like a forward-thinking strategy that avoids potential financial fallout.
Instead, the Yankees were forced to pivot to Marcus Stroman on a two-year, $37 million deal. Stroman is 32 years old, and the Yankees wanted a shorter-term contract they could easily move on from without holding them back in the future. It wasn’t exactly what the team wanted or needed, but it should get the job done to a degree.
The Yankees Are Taking a Big Risk in the Rotation
Unfortunately, the Yankees’ starting rotation is still a huge liability, and Cashman is taking a big gamble on the bounce back of several players, as he suggested on Thursday afternoon.
“I think our team overall is going to be a constant evolution. We have a very strong team in my opinion, but we always look to improve upon it where we can and when we can. I think we have a good rotation if everything goes right, which is something you don’t want to count on and lay back counting on. We will constantly continue to look and tinker if possible, but we do like what we have at the same time.”
Of course, Carlos Rodon is the focal point in this equation since the Yankees gave him a six-year, $162 million deal last off-season. He pitched just 64.1 innings after recording a career-high 178 innings in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants. His 6.85 ERA was a catalyst in the Yankees barely cracking a .500 percentage and missing the postseason. The rotation fell apart at the seams in 2023, and the Yankees can’t let that happen again this upcoming year.
While it is possible that Cashman will look to the summer trade deadline to add another prominent arm, it doesn’t seem as though he’s willing to spend over $150 million on Montgomery or Snell. The team made an initial offer to Snell before they signed Stroman, with super agent Scott Boras rejecting the proposal. Snell has longevity issues, and while he won the NL Cy Young award this past season, regression is anticipated, and the Yankees don’t want to be on the wrong side of that equation.
The front office will continue to consider adding additional pieces and tinkering, but that may not amount to much based on the fact they are already over the $300 million payroll threshold, and Steinbrenner has expressed a desire to stay below that number.
Earlier this off-season, Steinbrenner said it shouldn’t take $300 million to build a championship-caliber roster, but signing Yamamoto would’ve pushed that number even higher anyway. It seems they do have a little bit of money left on the payroll to allocate but the Yankees aren’t going to spend just to spend, it needs to be a fair and proactive deal.
Fortunately, Rodon has taken some positive steps forward with his rehabilitation and has cut serious weight this off-season. Cortes should be 100% healthy, and Clarke Schmidt has a full year of starting experience under his belt.
On paper, the Yankees are certainly gearing up for a major bounce-back campaign, but that is a serious risk, and they have to know the consequences. According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Yankees offered Snell six years and $150 million, which would average $25 million per year.
Having rejected that, it is safe to say that Snell may not get a more prominent contract, and he may have to bend the knee to Cashman if he wants his long-term payday.
At this point, though, after signing Stroman, it is possible the Yankees stop there, especially since they already have five arms in the rotation, and one would have to be pushed out to make room for Snell.
However, a top three of Cole, Rodon, and Snell would certainly be exciting and put the Yankees in the World Series conversation along with their newly reinforced offense.
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