by EJ Fagan
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
Marcus Stroman is a Yankee. Even on a real bargain contract guaranteeing him just $37 million over two years, Stroman raises the Yankees luxury tax payroll to a team record $305 million.
The Yankees also have quietly replaced some of the pitching depth they lost to the Juan Soto trade. Luke Weaver got a major league deal to be a swingman. Victor Gonzalez and Cody Poteet will play some role on the team. Clayton Beeter, Will Warren and Luis Gil are pushed further down the depth chart.
On the hitting side, the Yankees have also added some Triple-A depth in Oscar Gonzalez, Kevin Smith, Jeter Downs and Bubba Thompson. I don’t expect any of them to be on the major league roster to start the season.
Is that it?
Before signing Stroman, the Yankees had a clear hole in the rotation to be filled. If the season started today, the team would field a starting 9 of LeMahieu, Soto, Judge, Rizzo, Stanton, Verdugo, Volpe and Trevino. Their bench would consist of Grisham, Cabrera, Peraza and Wells.
Their rotation will consist of Cole, Cortes, Rodon, Stroman and Schmidt. Their bullpen is a bit more of a mess, but they are returning Loaisgia, Holmes, Kahnle, Effross and Hamilton.
The Yankees have clearly improved over last year. Soto and Verdugo were worth about 8 WAR over the terrible players they are replacing last year. It’s hard to overestimate just how bad the bottom half of the Yankees hitting roster was last year. Donaldson, Hicks, Cabrera, Stanton, Pereira, Peraza, Calhoun, Higashioka, Rortvedt, Cordero, and Bauers were all negative bWAR players, costing the team a combined -5.5 bWAR. Between the new players, bounce backs from some returning players like Stanton, Trevino, Rizzo and LeMahieu and some improvement from the young players, the Yankees will field a much better lineup next year.
The Yankees should expect at least some improvement out of Schmidt, Rodon and Cortes as a group, and hopefully will get better depth than the the horror show of Severino, German and Brito. Stroman effectively replaces Severino and German’s combined ERA around 6.00 with something probably in the mid-to-high 3.00s. Rodon and Cortes will almost certainly be better than last year’s combined 6.00, although how much better remains to be seen.
My point is that I think the Yankees roster is very competitive as it stands. If they do nothing else, we should expect this team to go out and win well over 90 games.
I think we’ll see the Yankees sign another solid relief pitcher, but more of a Keynan Middleton type than a big Josh Hader signing. I don’t expect them to go out and get a Snell, Montgomery or Cease. They have 5 solid starting pitchers, plus some depth. They are in better shape than a lot of their competitors.
But is this a World Series winning roster? They certainly are behind the National League powerhouses in Los Angeles and Atlanta, but Snell or Cease or whomever won’t change that. Their American League competitive deserves a longer analysis, but I think they are in better shape than most of the AL East. The Rangers and Astros are strong teams, but I don’t think are clearly outpacing the Yankees.
I can’t help shake the feeling that the Yankees are one big move away from winning the World Series. Soto and Verdugo are huge. Stroman helps a lot. They have a ton of slack to pull up from last year. But they are also coming off just 82 wins. The 2024 Yankees could improve by 15 wins and still head into a three game Wild Card playoff series.
The 2024 Yankees are in the zone where they have a ton to gain from adding to their roster. That could mean a lot of things. They could sign a top starter. They could improve at 3rd base or DH. They could replace Cabrera or Peraza with a better bench bat, preferably a right-handed power hitter to help platoon Verdugo. They could try to upgrade their bullpen more than Middleton, possibly with a Hader-type.
Either way, I think they would be smart to make more moves. Until 2023, the Aaron Boone Yankees have always put a solid playoff team on the field. But they’ve never gone into the playoffs as the big dog favorite. The 2024 Yankees are set up to look a lot like those 2017-2022 teams. That’s a lot better than last year, but not enough. Judge and Cole aren’t getting any younger.
The window could be closing. I hope Brian Cashman isn’t done.