Yankees could get substantial value from new free-agent pitching acquisition

mlb: spring training-new york yankees at baltimore orioles, marcus stroman
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Despite frequent rumors indicating that the Yankees have considered signing Blake Snell, their new pitching acquisition Marcus Stroman has displayed signs of quality this spring. Stroman was beaten up a bit during his first spring training performance but rebounded with a solid outing against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night.

Stroman pitched four scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out three batters. This was his first performance of spring against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up two earned runs over 2.1 innings, but he made a few fundamental tweaks that should promote better rhythm.

Adjusting to the Yankees: Stroman’s Integration into the Team

Fortunately, Stroman has adjusted quickly to the Yankees’ clubhouse despite years of negative back-and-forth between him and the team. Stroman has called out the Yankees on a number of occasions via social media, but he expressed a desire to sign with them this off-season.

Manager Aaron Boone has been impressed with Stroman’s personality and excitement about joining the Bombers, a team looking to make a World Series push this season but didn’t want to overspend on a free agent like Snell or Jordan Montgomery.

“I feel like he’s in a place he wants to be,” Boone said to MLB.com. “I think he’s assimilated into our clubhouse very seamlessly. I think he’s comfortable. I think he’s happy. I think he’s excited to compete on the biggest stages in baseball.”

In 2023, Stroman enjoyed a 3.95 ERA over 136.2 innings. Stroman was elite before the All-Star break but suffered an injury that derailed his campaign and compromised his numbers.

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Consistency and Performance: Stroman’s Impact on the Field

Despite that, he hasn’t recorded an ERA above 4.00 since 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays, suggesting he remains one of the league’s most consistent starting pitchers. The Bombers signed him to a two-year, $37 million deal that includes a vesting option for 2026 and a player option for next season if he pitches 140 innings.

Fortunately, the Yankees are already seeing what he can do this upcoming season, shutting down a strong Baltimore lineup on Saturday. A small tweak to his wind-up made a significant difference, Stroman said after the team’s loss.

“I made huge strides [mechanically],” Stroman said after building his pitch count to the high-50s in a 7-3 loss at Ed Smith Stadium. “Any time you make adjustments like that, they seem pretty small but they’re pretty drastic because it’s all connected to timing and fluidity. Just trying to get reps.”

Stroman, positioning his glove towards his chest and keeping things tight, supported a much better process. He’s able to maintain rhythm instead of his hands changing spots every time he goes through his wind-up. He mentioned how small tweaks can have a big impact, and that is exactly what happened against Baltimore.

“I’m already having way better results,” he said. “It’s just allowing me to be repetitive way more consistently. When my hands are low, my hand pump was becoming too inconsistent with the height of it each and every pitch. Putting my hands at my chest, very compact and tight for me is my biggest thing.”

Stroman features a sinker, slurve, cutter, and four-seam fastball as his primary pitches. His sinker is his most efficient fastball, thrown at 46.4% in 2023 and hosting a .245 batting average.

Stroman is known for his ground ball percentages, recording a 57.1% GB rate last season, which should play well in Yankee Stadium. While he may not be Snell coming off an NL Cy Young award-winning season, he provides substantially more value than Domingo German did last year and he is slated to be a middle of the rotation for the Bombers in 2024.

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