Yankees Thoughts: Overly-Optimistic Offseason Continues

The Yankees introduced Marcus Stroman as their newest addition this week and Brian Cashman answered questions about other players and pitchers from his 2024 roster.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Marcus Stroman is officially a Yankee. The newest Yankee said all the right things during his introductory press conference.

“I’m not someone who shies away from the limelight or the pressure, the lights,” Stroman said. “I think a lot of people avoid coming to New York and playing for the Yankees because of that reason. I feel like it brings out the best in me.”

We have heard similar things from other starting pitchers over the years upon becoming Yankees. James Paxton talked about how “pressure is a privilege” entering the 2019 season before proceeding to crumble under that pressure. Last winter, Carlos Rodon talked about how “just putting on these pinstripes is something special,” and then gave all Yankees fans a “special” season when he missed the first half of it and was the worst starting pitcher in the majors during the second half of it.

2. When the Yankees sign or trade for someone, they say it’s because they believe that person can handle New York without anyway of measuring or knowing who will or won’t perform well playing their home games in New York. When it doesn’t work out, they say it’s because that person couldn’t handle New York. It’s never because they targeted, traded for, signed or paid the wrong person.

“There is a population of Major League talent that does not want to play in the New York arena,” Brian Cashman said in introducing Stroman. “It’s too hot, it’s too difficult, it’s too much. That is not this player. This player wanted to be here.”

In Stroman, the Yankees are getting a pitcher who has pitched in big markets in Toronto, New York and Chicago, and in the postseason. They are getting a pitcher who is from New York, grew up a Yankees fan, has already pitched on the other side of the city and understands the microscope he will perform under every five days. It doesn’t mean it will work out. It doesn’t mean he won’t take to social media immediately following a bad start to instigate online fights with fans unhappy with his performance. For now, it just means he’s aware of what he has signed up for.

3. “The bigger the opportunity, he runs to the competition,” Cashman continued. “It’s how he seems to have been wired, all the way back to his amateur days.”

If that’s Cashman’s evaluation of Stroman, again, like I wrote last week, how was Stroman not a Yankee at the 2019 deadline? Especially since Cashman believes Stroman’s makeup dates back to his amateur days which predate 2019.

“Toronto, being in the division, was certainly going to ask more of us at that time,” Cashman said in reflecting on not trading for Stroman. “I just said, ‘For the amount of talent they wanted back, it wasn’t going to be enough of a difference-maker.’ That was my bad, because then how it played wasn’t certainly how it was intended.”

4. I wonder what the Blue Jays asked for in return in July 2019. Clint Frazier? Miguel Andujar? Tyler Wade? Estevan Florial? All the stud Yankees prospects who were later designated for assignment and released for nothing?

You have to admire Cashman saying the quote was “his bad” for how it played rather than saying it was “his bad” for not being willing to part with prospects that amounted to nothing or for not trading for Stroman, who may have helped the Yankees overcome the Astros in that year’s ALCS. 

Everyone always seems to be misquoting Cashman or taking his words out of context. In mid-November after Cashman spoke about Giancarlo Stanton and said, “He’s going to wind up getting hurt again more likely than not because it seems to be part of his game,” he later tried to backtrack and say his words were misconstrued. If Stroman fails as a Yankee, I’m sure Cashman will say his quote from this week about Stroman being “wired” to play for the Yankees isn’t what he meant.

5. Stroman can’t fail as a Yankee. He can’t because there are too many other questions marks in the rotation. Every starter other than Gerrit Cole has a lengthy and scary injury history, and it would be foolish to think the Yankees can navigate 162 games with the five names currently in their rotation. They traded away their starting pitching depth to acquire Juan Soto, and their master plan (their only plan to negate the depth they traded) fell through when Yoshinobu Yamamoto chose the Dodgers and their $75 million higher offer over the Yankees.

6. Cashman was asked about other Yankees on Thursday, including the disappointing Rodon and oft-injured Nestor Cortes.

“The feedback I’m getting is really good,” Cashman said of Rodon. “He looks like he obviously worked his tail off. Very optimistic that Rodon can return to form (and) be the pitcher that we know he’s capable of being.”

My nose still burns from the water I was drinking while reading that quote coming out of my nostrils due to uncontrollable laughter. I love a good “best shape of their life”-type story from the start of spring training, but to have one in mid-January for a starting pitcher who was the worst starting pitcher in baseball in his first year of a six-year, $162 million deal is truly absurd. Rodon looking “good” in mid-January should be the bare minimum to expect from someone who makes more than $800,000 per start whether he starts or not.

7. “All reports on him have been fantastic,” Cashman said of Cortes.

Here is the combined line for Rodon and Cortes from last season: 127.2 IP, 124 H, 87 R, 84 ER, 48 BB, 131 K, 26 HR, 5.94 ERA, 1.347 WHIP.

There’s a month until pitchers and catchers officially reports, five weeks until spring training games begin and 10 weeks until Opening Day. Let me know what kind of shape those two are in and how they look at the end of March, if they can both get to that point healthy and available.

8. When asked about Stanton, Cashman decided against unnecessarily criticizing his designated hitter like he did two months ago. Cashman commented that Stanton has a new “tact” to his offseason and that his training is “in a really good place between his diet and his offseason conditioning.”

I’m glad Stanton is eating vegetables and has possibly shied away from using a sledgehammer to pound a tire as part of his offseason strengthening routine. I don’t know that he’s an offseason workout change away from going from a .695 OPS in 2023 to even the mediocre .759 OPS (which he posted in 2022) in 2024. When Stanton wasn’t hurt last year, he was lost at the plate, taking middle-middle fastballs and swinging at sliders in the opposite batter’s box. It’s hard to believe a change in diet is going to help him with pitch recognition and pitch selection, but OK.

“He’s always been one of the most feared hitters in the game,” Cashman said of Stanton, clearly unknowing of the meaning of “always.” “And I think he’s locking forward to getting back to that.”

9. “The doctors have told us he’s 100 percent clear,” Cashman said about Anthony Rizzo’s health. “The type of concussion he hd, once he’s past it, will not return. I can’t speak to that. I’m not an expert. But there’s no looking back, just moving forward.

I’m glad Cashman clarified he’s not an expert on concussions. Here I was thinking Cashman was an expert on head injuries after he allowed Rizzo to play for three months and endure the worst three-month stretch of his career following a head collision. But nothing is better than Rizzo telling Aaron Boone of head fogginess prior to a three-game series in Baltimore in August, only to then play all three games before being shut down for the season after that series.

10. Aside from Jason Dominguez, who is expected to return sometime in the summer, every Yankee who is coming off a career-worst year or finished last season injured is either in fantastic shape or once again healthy. You don’t need to look at a calendar or outside your window in New York City to falling snow today to know what month it is. The overly-optimistic health and performance reports coming from the Yankees are all you need to know it’s mid-January.