Yankees’ free agent acquisition will not be their Opening Day starter

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Boone revealed that the Yankees will not push Carlos Rodon up a day to make the Opening Day start, as he’s slated to pitch in their second game of the season. The natural choice would feel like Marcus Stroman, whom the Chicago Cubs gave the Opening Day nod to last season, but he won’t make that start this year. With his schedule lining up for the third game of the season, Marcus Stroman revealed that he will not make the start on Opening Day. This isn’t an injury-related or talent-related issue, but rather the Yankees valuing his rest days and wanting to be cautious.

Gerrit Cole was lined up to be their Opening Day starter before an elbow injury took him out of the equation, and while we’ve yet to find out exactly how long he’ll be out for, it’s expected to be at least 1-2 months. The Yankees did approach Stroman about pitching the first game of the season, so it seems that if the timing matched up, he could have gotten the ball, but they’re still in search of an option.

Marcus Stroman Will Not Be the Yankees’ Opening Day Starter

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees aren’t going to push it with Marcus Stroman, who has been in line to pitch that third game of the season from the start of his throwing program. It remains to be seen who the Yankees turn to, but the options are down to three spots in their rotation. Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt are locks to make the starting rotation and thus are both considered viable options for the honor. They’ll have to do the impossible by replacing Gerrit Cole in Houston for their first game of the 2024 season, but it would make sense to turn to them in this circumstance.

We still don’t know who their fifth starter will be, and while Luke Weaver is the name you’d assume makes their Opening Day rotation, Aaron Boone has been non-committal about that. That could mean that they’re just trying to keep everyone engaged in the competition, or that conversations between Boone and Cashman are still ongoing in regards to who will fill out their rotation. That fifth starter could in theory also make the Opening Day start, and here are some of the other candidates for that role.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
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Clayton Beeter, whom the Yankees acquired at the 2022 trade deadline for Joey Gallo, has impressed heavily in Spring Training, striking out 11 batters while walking three in nine innings of work. The right-hander is sporting an improved four-seamer and slider, and since he’s on the 40-man roster, the Yankees don’t have to do much to place him in the rotation. Some of the concerns with him include poor command and the lack of a third pitch, but perhaps he can work through those flaws and put up quality starts at the Major League level.

The Yankees can also turn to Will Warren, who is widely considered a top-10 prospect in the organization and has also been solid in Spring Training. He posted a 3.61 ERA after being promoted to Triple-A last, winning International League Pitcher of the Month honors in September when he posted a 0.63 ERA across five outings. Warren possesses a deeper repertoire than Beeter and is considered more of a sure bet to remain a starter due to his deeper mix with multiple movement profiles.

Since he’s not on the 40-man roster, the Yankees would have to either make a roster transaction to clear space and make him eligible for a call-up to the Major Leagues. Furthermore, this starts his service clock, and the Yankees are very particular when it comes to service time. Whoever they eventually decide upon, they’ll potentially be in the mix for the Opening Day nod.

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