Yankees took a starting pitching gamble, but it could pay off big

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs, yankees, marcus stroman
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have taken some significant risks this off-season in an effort to enhance their roster. Notably, General Manager Brian Cashman orchestrated a major trade, sending Michael King and several key pitchers to acquire Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo. This move aimed to significantly strengthen the outfield, demonstrating Cashman’s readiness to make bold decisions for improvement.

Yankees’ Trade-Offs and New Signings

Although this trade brought a Hall of Fame-caliber bat and a competent left fielder in Verdugo, it came at the cost of losing valuable pitchers. King was set for a starting role in the upcoming season, while Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez had potential as bullpen assets or spot starters.

However, the Yankees also faced a setback in their pursuit of Yoshinobu Yamamoto from the JPL, who ultimately signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was a rare loss for Cashman in the free-agent market, highlighting the highly competitive nature of player acquisitions.

Subsequently, Cashman shifted focus, turning to Marcus Stroman, a notable yet risky acquisition with considerable upside. Stroman’s two-year, $37 million deal, including a vesting option in 2026 and a player option in 2025 (contingent on pitching over 140 innings), reflects the Yankees’ strategy to balance risk with potential reward.

Last season, Stroman pitched 136.2 innings with a 3.95 ERA and a strong ground ball rate, a key asset in Yankee Stadium’s environment.

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Strategic Calculations and Future Prospects

The decision to invest $18.5 million annually in a 32-year-old pitcher like Stroman, who hasn’t pitched over 140 innings since 2021 and carries some personality concerns, was a calculated risk by Cashman. The alternative options, such as Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell, presented their challenges. Snell’s demand for a $200 million contract and Montgomery’s likely return to the Texas Rangers influenced Cashman’s direction.

While there’s a remote possibility of Snell lowering his demands to join the Yankees’ World Series quest, it’s a long shot, given his pursuit of a significant long-term deal.

The Yankees are now placing their hopes on Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes for bounce-back performances. There are legitimate concerns about the rotation’s reliability, and the Yankees are aware that much needs to fall into place for success.

Consequently, overspending in the current market is viewed as imprudent, and it’s expected that Cashman will wait until the summer trade deadline to potentially bolster the rotation when prices for key targets might be more favorable.