The pessimist in all of us was getting relatively concerned with the lack of movement on the pitching market. Weeks passed after the Yankees missed on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and though they were rumored to be in on all sorts of pitchers, nothing concrete emerged. At last, the Yankees got in on the action by signing Marcus Stroman on Thursday night.
First things first, it’s important to look at the exact figure of his contract, and how that fits in the context of the rest of the current free agent market. Stroman signed on for a $37-million guarantee across two years, with an option for a third season. The $18-million team option can vest and become a player option if Stroman pitches 140 innings or more in 2025.
That 140-inning mark is an interesting one given Stroman’s track record. The right-hander has fallen just short of that bar in both 2022 and 2023, finishing each campaign in the high 130s. He did turn in 179 frames in 2021, bringing his three-year average to 151 innings.
Ultimately, for the Yankees, it is at worst an intriguing option to the deal. Ability-wise, Stroman has mostly proved himself, and the Yankees are protected in case he struggles to remain healthy. Chances are, if Stroman goes for 140 innings in 2025, he’ll opt out because he’d be in a position to make more than that on the open market.
Looking at the rest of the market, shortly after the Stroman news, we heard that the Giants just inked Jordan Hicks to a deal worth $44MM across four seasons, with the Giants working to shift Hicks to the rotation after spending his career his a reliever. Michael Wacha got $32MM over two and Seth Lugo got $45MM over three, both from the Royals. If you want to go a tier higher, Sonny Gray got $75MM over three years from the Cardinals.
With that context, it’s difficult not to be at least content with the deal the Yankees got, especially acknowledging their desire for added depth. The Yankees absolutely needed another starter, and they got one that usually can fill a solid chunk of innings, with quality run prevention numbers. Stroman, 33 in May, has a longer track record of success than either Wacha or Lugo, and sits in just about the same age band as both players. That he ended up in a similar tier on the market represents a pretty decent bit of business by Brian Cashman and the Yankees.
Crucially, Stroman bumps a chunk of pitchers down a notch on the Yankees’ depth chart, to positions that should leave fans feeling more comfortable. No longer is Will Warren or Clayton Beeter penciled in as the fifth starter; both should be afforded a bit more time to develop at Triple-A, before likely being called on to contribute in the majors later in the year. Clarke Schmidt now profiles as the club’s fifth starter, with Luis Gil and Yoendrys Gómez filling out the rest of the club’s starting depth.
It remains to be seen if the Yankees will add more arms to the mix, but for now, Stroman at least has the team’s in-house options lined up for roles they seem qualified for. It still probably behooves the Yankees to continue to be proactive about their rotation, given the injury question marks attached to Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes. But Stroman pushes the Yankees a step in the right direction, and at a reasonable price for all involved.