Marcus Stroman’s decision to sign with the New York Yankees last week came as a bit of a surprise — not least because he didn’t seem to think too highly of didn’t seem to think too highly of GM Brian Cashman, and didn’t have a problem saying so publicly. (As a refresher for those unfamiliar with this historic beef: After declining to trade for Stroman at the 2019 trade deadline, Cashman said the Yankees did not see the righty as a “difference-maker” come playoff time. Stroman was instead dealt to the New York Mets, and he’d spend the better part of the next 18 months firing back at his crosstown rivals on social media.)
As you might imagine, that little war of words was the first thing on everyone’s mind when New York introduced Stroman in pinstripes via a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon. But according to the man himself, that’s all ancient history. Here’s what Stroman said Thursday about the past issues with Cashman (via the New York Post):
“(Our talk) was quick, man. It was quick. We literally laughed about it,” Stroman told reporters Thursday on a Zoom call. “He let me know his quick little piece about how it didn’t necessarily come out essentially how he wanted it to. He let me know that I was someone who he thought was always gonna be a good competitor, someone who could handle the lights, someone who thrives in the pressure, and that was kind of the ultimate draw.
“I’m not someone who shies away from the limelight or pressure. I think a lot of guys would avoid coming to New York and playing for the Yankees because of that reason. I’m someone who, like I said, I feel like it brings out the best in me.”
Before a contract was agreed to, Cashman and Stroman allegedly met face-to-face to smooth things over and make sure there were no lingering hard feelings. Stroman also told reporters that he met with manager Aaron Boone and spoke with Yankees captain Aaron Judge. It seems, at least for now, like this is water under the bridge.
And it’s a good thing, too, because the reality is that both Stroman and the Yankees found themselves needing each other this winter. The righty didn’t get the market he likely hoped for coming off an injury-shortened 2023 season, while New York found itself needing a rotation upgrade but long shots for other top options like Blake Snell (too pricy) and Jordan Montgomery (sights set on a return to Texas). After a while, it was clear that a deal was in each side’s best interest, and now it’s time for everyone to bury the hatchet and act like adults. A public back and forth is never ideal, but players and executives do not have to like each other personally. (As evidence, see just about all of baseball history.)
They just need to be able to have a productive professional relationship and put on a smile publicly, and in that respect, Thursday was a promising start. Now the real work begins, as the 32-year-old Stroman will look to bolster a rotation that currently features reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt. There’s a lot of upside in that group, but a lot of risk as well, and New York will be counting on Stroman to provide a bit of stability given how rough (and injury-prone) both Rodón and Cortes were in 2023.
With just one guaranteed year of Juan Soto — and both Cole and Judge not getting any younger — the Yankees are even more desperate to erase the stench of last year’s 82-80 finish, their first time missing the postseason since 2016. Stroman had a 3.95 ERA in 136.2 innings with the Cubs last season, getting off to a great start before being slowed by hip and rib cage injuries.