The calendar has flipped to 2024, and with the holiday behind us, expect the Hot Stove to get cranking again soon — with 14 of our top 25 free agents still available and lots of money freed up now that Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are off the market. So who’s heading where? Each weekday, we’ll be bringing you the latest news, rumors and reports from around MLB. Monday’s edition features plenty of interesting pitching items, from the Yankees’ continued search for a rotation upgrade to some notable movement on the trade market.
MLB Hot Stove rumors: Monday, Jan. 8
Stroman ‘seriously interested’ in Yankees
It’s no secret that, having missed out on Yamamoto, the New York Yankees are urgently seeking an impact starting pitcher via free agency or trade. Gerrit Cole is only one man, and with Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes Jr. coming off injury-plagued (and ineffective) 2023 seasons, it’s no wonder that Hal Steinbrenner is reportedly willing to greenlight a significant addition to the team’s rotation.
Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remain the clear top two options on the market, but over the past day or so a new name has entered the rumor mill: Marcus Stroman. The prospect of Stroman to the Yankees was long thought to be dead on arrival, given the fiery righty’s long-standing grudge against New York — dating back to the 2019 trade deadline, when GM Brian Cashman said he wasn’t a “difference-maker”. Stroman has hardly missed an opportunity to take a shot at Cashman and the Yankees in the years since.
Now, though, the 32-year-old appears to be changing his tune. Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Stroman has communicated to New York that he’s “seriously interested” in signing with the team, and the interest is apparently mutual:
The Yankees and free-agent starter Marcus Stroman continue to have mutual interest, which began in November at the GM meetings, with the Yankees still searching for another front-line starter on the free agent and trade markets.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 8, 2024
It is a bit convenient that Stroman has suddenly warmed up to the Yankees now that he’s experiencing something of a cool free-agent market? No doubt. But the righty was very effective for the Cubs last year before injuries derailed things, and his ground-ball heavy approach would be a nice fit with Yankee Stadium. Plus, while New York would likely prefer Snell or Montgomery — or a trade for Dylan Cease — there simply aren’t a ton of compelling options remaining, so they’d be unwise to close the door on a guy who projects to be an above-average starter in 2024 and can likely be had for less.
Brewers not expected to trade Burnes
Elsewhere in that Nightengale report: It appears that the Milwaukee Brewers are not expected to deal ace Corbin Burnes this offseason after all. Burnes is a year away from free agency, and with Brewers facing something of a rebuilding year — having lost Craig Counsell to the Cubs and co-ace Brandon Woodruff to shoulder surgery — the 2021 NL Cy Young winner was an obvious trade candidate. That said, Milwaukee won the NL Central in 2023 and could very well win it again in 2024 given the wide-open state of the division right now. There’s still plenty of talent here, and keeping Burnes and trying to make a run is understandable.
And, of course, the Brewers could always put Burnes on the trade block at the deadline should things not work out. They would assume the risk of injury by doing so — look what happened with Woodruff this past season — but keeping Burnes is their best chance to contend in the immediate term. As long as he’s healthy, he would be very in demand at the deadline, and he would also help the Brewers stay in the race and see what happens.
Red Sox make Jansen available
Including arbitration projections, the Red Sox have $173 million on the books for 2024 — just below last year’s $183 million Opening Day number and well below the $207 million the team spent in 2022. And yet, USA Today reports that Boston is open to moving All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, with an eye on freeing up the $16 million the 36-year-old is set to earn in 2024.
On the one hand, that’s a hefty number for a reliever, even one as solid as Jansen, and the four-time All-Star will likely fetch a nice return as a more affordable and shorter-term alternative to top free agent Josh Hader. On the other, reports that the Red Sox are butting against their budget constraints — per CBS Sports, the team has told at least one free agent they must clear salary before they can make an offer — will only raise more questions about the future of the franchise under John Henry’s ownership. Boston’s rotation asked a lot of its bullpen in 2023, and that figures to be the case once again after dealing away Chris Sale; it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox contending this year without a reliable back-end option like Jansen.
Mets probably done addressing rotation
The Mets did nice work in snagging lefty Sean Manaea on a reasonable two-year deal (with an opt-out for next winter), continuing their trend under new lead exec David Stearns of identifying solid short-term pitching fliers. With Luis Severino and Adrian Houser also in tow behind Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana, it appears that Stearns and Co. are set to call it a wrap on piecing together a rotation for 2024. Will Sammon of the Athletic reports:
“At this point, the Mets seem unlikely to add another starting pitcher this offseason, according to people familiar with the club’s thinking, however, it’s possible they add depth via a minor-league signing or something similar.”
This tracks with the general notion that the Mets, while realistically hoping for a bounceback 2024 in the tough NL East, are mostly focused on 2025 and beyond — as they should be, considering how far away this team looked from contention toward the end of last season. Keeping their powder dry while hoping one or more of Severino, Manaea and Houser pop — to flip them at the trade deadline if nothing else — is sound strategy.