Ever since the New York Yankees missed out on top target Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the hunt has been on for a way to upgrade the team’s starting rotation behind Gerrit Cole. We’d been assuming that said upgrade would be another top free agent, maybe Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, or a trade for someone like White Sox righty Dylan Cease. In recent days, however, an unlikely frontrunner has emerged: Former Blue Jays, Mets and Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman.
First came a report that Stroman had signaled his interest in signing in the Bronx, interest which may or may not have been requited. Now, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi claims that the Yankees are in fact the “top candidate” for the righty’s services:
The Yankees have emerged as the top candidate to sign Marcus Stroman, source says. I’m told the sides have had productive discussions in recent days.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 10, 2024
We will cover the latest details on @MLBNetwork this morning. @MLB
We had Stroman ranked at No. 11 on our list of the top available free agents at the start of the winter. The Long Island native made his second All-Star team in 2023, the reward for a brilliant first half in which he posted a 2.96 ERA and looked like a Cy Young dark horse for the Cubs. But injury derailed things from there, limiting him to a dismal 8.63 ERA in just eight appearances (six starts) in the second half.
Stroman finished with a 3.95 ERA (113 ERA+), the fourth straight season in which he’s put up an ERA better than league average. He still generates a ton of ground balls with his sinker-heavy approach (94th percentile in ground ball rate) and while his walk rate spiked last season, he still profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter when he’s on the mound. But there begins the rub: Stroman is set to enter his age-33 season, and he’s failed to clear the 150-inning mark for two years in a row now — and three of the last five. (He sat out the 2020 season entirely due to COVID-19 concerns.)
Stroman’s approach would seem to be a good fit for right field at Yankee Stadium, and he’ll bolster New York’s rotation in the short-term without costing nearly as much as Snell or Montgomery (or costing the Yankees in prospects in the way that Cease or Shane Bieber would). But this is already a pitching staff full of health concerns, with both Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes Jr. coming off injury-plagued seasons. It’s not hard to see all three players missing significant time in 2024, and with Stroman likely about to enter his decline years, it’s unclear whether his upside is worth that risk.
This upcoming season is a massive one for Brian Cashman and Co.: They paid a hefty price for a single guaranteed year of Juan Soto, and Cole and Aaron Judge aren’t getting any younger. New York needs to do as much as it can to put themselves in position to contend right away, and while Snell and Montgomery also bring long-term concerns — any deal they sign will likely take them into their late 30s — it’s hard not to feel like that’s a problem for the 2026 Yankees and beyond to figure out. Signing Stroman would keep the balance sheet a bit cleaner, but it also might result in another disappointing season.