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How the Yankees should address their need for starting pitching

January 11, 2024 sutton56 6 min read

How the Yankees should address their need for starting pitching

January 11, 2024 Ross Sutton 6 min read

By: Ross Sutton

After trading for outfielders Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham, the Yankees have not made any notable additions to their roster this offseason. Unfortunately, to make those trades, the Yankees had to sacrifice a large chunk of their pitching depth, so now there are a few holes that need to be filled in the team’s pitching staff.

There have been recent rumors that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Marcus Stroman. These rumors surprised most people (myself included) because Stroman has been one of the most controversial and vocal players in baseball over his career. After being traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets in 2019, Stroman was reportedly furious with the Blue Jays front office for not trading him to the Yankees rather than the Mets. This report led to Brian Cashman being asked about Stroman and how close the team might have been to acquiring him and Cashman responded by saying that Stroman would have been in the team’s bullpen in the postseason. This made Stroman irate, and he mocked and criticized the Yankee front office in a number of recently deleted tweets. Due to this history of contention between Stroman and the Yankees front office, people assumed Stroman would not be a free agent target of the team, but yesterday’s report from Jon Morosi made it seem like the Yankees are actually likely to sign Stroman.

If you can look passed the potential personality problems that come with signing Marcus Stroman, I think he is a pretty good fit for the Yankees. Stroman is known for consistently having a very high ground ball rate, which is a trait that the Yankees have looked for in the past with other players such as Sonny Gray, Wandy Peralta, and Clay Holmes. Gray’s tenure with the team didn’t work out for the Yankees, but I think Stroman is better suited to thrive under the bright lights of New York since he grew up on Long Island and had success when he played for the Mets a few years ago. Another good thing about potentially signing Marcus Stroman is that he will come at a much lower cost than other free agent starters Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. FanGraphs estimates Stroman to receive a 3-year, $66M deal in free agency, and while I think that Average Annual Value sounds about right for Stroman, I think he will likely sign a contract for two years rather than three. Therefore, I think Stroman will sign a 2-year, $42M deal with whichever team he agrees to a deal with. Maybe there will be a third year club option in the contract too, but this is what I think he will receive in guaranteed money. If the Yankees were to sign Stroman, he would likely be the team’s second or third starter behind Cole and possibly Rodon, with Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt behind him.

While signing Stroman would give the Yankees five legitimate starting pitchers, I would still want to see the team go out and acquire another starting pitcher to give them a really strong starting rotation. Even though the team was willing to offer Yoshinobu Yamamoto a $300M contract, I would feel greedy asking the team to go out and sign Snell or Montgomery (either of which will likely command a contract around $200M) after signing Stroman, so I think exploring the trade market for another starter would be the best/most realistic option. The Yankees have been linked to pitcher Dylan Cease this offseason, but the White Sox are reportedly asking for two of a team’s top prospects in any potential Cease trade, so I think the Yankees are better off looking at other players that could be traded such as Shane Bieber or Jesus Luzardo.

Bieber, who avoided arbitration with the Guardians today by agreeing to a one-year, $13.125M contract, will be a free agent after this season and missed a portion of the 2023 season with elbow inflammation, so the cost of acquiring him should be much lower than the cost of trading for Dylan Cease. Furthermore, Bieber had a better season last year than Cease, so it is very possible that Bieber could out perform Cease again in 2024, making him a more appealing option in my opinion. One down side of trading for Bieber after a hypothetical Marcus Stroman signing is that Bieber and Stroman have similar pitching styles, as they are right-handed pitchers that don’t throw very hard and rely on location, movement, and keeping hitters off-balance. Therefore, the two might be a bit redundant in the rotation, thus making it easier for opponents to game plan against them.

I believe that Jesus Luzardo is a very intriguing pitcher as well, and the cost of acquiring him is likely somewhere between that of Cease and Bieber. Two of the most valuable aspects of Luzardo is that he is young (entering his age 26 season) and under team control via arbitration through 2026, so any team that trades for him this offseason will get him for the next three seasons. This makes him more valuable than Bieber, and even though Luzardo’s contract has one more year of team control than Cease’s, I still think it would take more to acquire Cease because of the fantastic 2022 season that Cease had, as he finished with a 2.20 ERA in 32 starts and was second in the AL Cy Young voting. Luzardo has shown a fairly high ceiling as well though, pitching to an ERA+ of 124 the past two seasons. I am slightly concerned with Luzardo’s ability to stay healthy, as 2023 was the first season of his career in which he made more than 18 starts, but I still think the Yankees should heavily consider trading for this hard throwing lefty.

If I had to guess, I would assume the cost of trading for Shane Bieber would be something like Everson Pereira (Yankees #3 prospect), Henry Lalane (#12), and a lower level prospect. Luckily for the Yankees, Pereira is a pretty expendable asset at this point with Soto, Judge, Verdugo, Grisham, and Jasson Dominguez blocking him from getting much opportunity at the big league level, but he is still a top 100 prospect in baseball, and the Guardians could use some power-hitting outfielders, so I think they would be interested in Pereira. Lalane is a promising 6’7 left-handed pitcher, but he is only 19 years old, so he is still years away from making an impact in the majors.

I assume it would take more to trade for Luzardo, who is likely entering the prime years of his career, but for two additional years of team control compared to Bieber, I think the juice is worth the squeeze for the Yankees. To pry Luzardo away from the Marlins, I think it would take Oswald Peraza, Everson Pereira, Clarke Schmidt, and Henry Lalane. Much like the Guardians, the Marlins could use a power-hitting outfielder, as it seems unlikely that they re-sign Jorge Soler, and I think offering Clarke Schmidt would make it much less difficult for the Marlins to give up Luzardo. Schmidt can immediately fill Luzardo’s spot in the starting rotation, and Schmidt actually has more years of club control (4) remaining on his deal than Luzardo (3). Additionally, the Marlins would probably be pretty excited about acquiring Oswald Peraza, who has not received a ton of opportunities in the majors, but projects to be a special defender at short, a position where Miami could use some help. Then also receiving Lalane in this hypothetical trade makes this a package that I think the Marlins would seriously consider accepting in exchange for Luzardo. All things considered, I would rather the Yankees trade for Luzardo than Bieber due to their differences in age and club control, but if the Yankees sign Stroman and trade for either Luzardo or Beiber, then they would have an extremely strong rotation of Cole, Rodon, Bieber/Luzardo, Stroman, and Cortes.

Ross Sutton

University of South Carolina Sport & Entertainment Management and Villanova School of Law graduate.

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