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Yankees signing SP Marcus Stroman to two-year, $37 million deal

New York didn’t want to wait around for Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, instead pouncing on the fiery 32-year-old righty.

Marcus Stroman of the Chicago Cubs reacts after a strikeout against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at Wrigley Field on June 15, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

From the moment the New York Yankees missed out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the search was on for alternative upgrade to the team’s starting rotation. The only question was who? Rumors have been swirling ever since the new year, but we finally appear to have our answer: The team is reportedly in agreement with righty Marcus Stroman on a two-year, $37 million deal, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale adds that the option for year three is a vesting option — basically, an extra year that becomes guaranteed if the player in question reaches a certain performance incentive threshold.

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.

When the offseason started, the idea of Stroman in pinstripes seemed far-fetched at best. The Yankees had their sights set on bigger fish, specifically Yamamoto, and the relationship between the two sides had been frosty ever since Cashman said the righty wasn’t a “difference-maker” when asked why he didn’t pursue him at the 2019 trade deadline. But free agency has a way of making strange bedfellows; Yamamoto spurned New York to sign with the Dodgers, Stroman’s market was tepid at best and all of a sudden there was mutual interest.

In the end, Brian Cashman was tired of waiting. New York made an initial offer to the top remaining free agent available, reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell, but the two sides were so far apart that talks quickly shut down. They engaged the White Sox on a trade for Dylan Cease, but Chicago was insistent on a package that included the Yankees’ top prospect, outfielder Spencer Jones — a non-starter for Cashman. They had their eye on a reunion with Jordan Montgomery, but the lefty’s heart appears to remain in Texas. Which presented the Yankees with a conundrum: Wait it out for Snell, Montgomery or Cease and risk getting left with nothing, or pounce now and make sure that you come away from this critical offseason with at least some sort of upgrade to your rotation.

Cashman chose the latter, and you can understand why. Stroman doesn’t have nearly the upside of Snell or Cease or the reliability of Montgomery, but he should still be an above-average pitcher in 2024 — something the Yankees needed if they hope to contend for a title in their one guaranteed season with Juan Soto under contract. And speaking of Soto: Signing Stroman at this number (an eminently reasonable price to pay, given how hot the pitching market has run so far this offseason) maintains plenty of financial flexibility with which to make a run at the superstar outfielder when he hits free agency next winter. Would the Yankees rather have had Snell or Montgomery? Almost certainly. But it’s very much an open question whether they would’ve been able to land either, and you can’t blame Cashman for taking the bird in the hand.