Brian Cashman Offers Clues to What’s Next for the New York Yankees Roster

The New York Yankees general manager spoke with reporters via video conference on Thursday afternoon, just an hour after the team introduced newly acquired starting pitcher Marcus Stroman as its latest signing. He answered many questions concerning what the team has done this off-season and what the team might do before Spring Training begins in mid-February.

Are the Yankees finished adding to their starting rotation?

In late December, the Yankees lost out on highly touted Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and fans were left to wonder who they would pivot toward. With names like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, and Corbin Burnes being thrown in the mix as possible additions to the Yankees’ roster, fans have been excited to see if they would make another blockbuster move after the highly publicized Juan Soto deal with the San Diego Padres.

The recent signing of former Chicago Cub Marcus Stroman was met with mixed reactions. These reactions were fueled by his documented issues with the Yankees’ organization and his inability to pitch more than 150 innings over the last two seasons. Stroman seems to be embracing the pinstripes as of late, removing all of his anti-Yankee posts via X/Twitter and sharing many rendered photos of him wearing a Yankees jersey while most recently being seen at a New York Knicks basketball game sporting the classic Yankee Hat.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Fans are still hungry for more additions to a questionable rotation that includes Carlos Rodon, who struggled with both injury and performance during his first year as a Yankee, and Nestor Cortes, who is recently coming off of an injury-riddled season after enjoying an All-Star-worthy campaign in 2022. Cashman stopped just short of saying that the club is finished with its major off-season moves regarding starting pitching:

Cashman: “I think our team overall is going to be a constant evolution. We have a very strong team in my opinion, but we always look to improve upon it where we can and when we can. I think we have a good rotation if everything goes right, which is something you don’t want to count on and lay back counting on. We will constantly continue to look and tinker if possible, but we do like what we have at the same time.”

Takeaways

With his usual vague demeanor, Cashman was careful when discussing the club’s next steps. The Yankees have actively pursued Blake Snell, who remains unsigned. Not long before the Yankees finalized a deal with Marcus Stroman, Jon Heyman of the NY Post reported that they had placed a bid on Snell totaling six years, $150M, but there was a “big gap” between the parties involved. According to Jack Curry of YES, the team has mostly moved on from trying to add to the starting rotation and shifted its focus to building the bullpen. There is a possibility that the Yankees could sign Snell, but his asking price would have to drop considerably, as it is currently at 9-years, $270M per his agent, Scott Boras.

What about the Bullpen?

Last season, the Yankees had one of the strongest bullpens in the league, finishing with the lowest ERA among MLB teams at 3.34 combined. Still, key contributors like Wandy Peralta remain unsigned this off-season. Cashman said he didn’t want to “characterize any specific aspect” of the roster that he is attempting to improve, but he mentioned that he believes the team is better than last year.

Cashman: “I think we’ve jump-started a lot of areas, especially the offense, which was a difficult run for us last year. I think we’ve improved, but it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters how it’s going to play. But we’re excited about the possibilities. The players that were here are very hungry, had a bad taste in their mouth from last year’s experience, and nobody wants to have that experience again.”

Takeaways

The Yankees bullpen is led by Clay Holmes (2.86 ERA, 24 Saves – 2023), who is poised to assume the closer position for the team. Pitching Coach Matt Blake has shown a knack for identifying issues in a pitcher’s mechanics while highlighting the best part of their pitch mix. The bullpen is righty-heavy, with Jonathon Loaisiga and Scott Effross set to make their return from injury. Tommy Kahnle, who also suffered an injury last season, seems ready to take on the later innings in relief. These may be the club’s top bullpen options leading into the 2024 season, but names like Wandy Peralta, Kenyon Middleton, and Hector Neris are still on the board in free agency. It seems likely that another bullpen move will be made within the next month.

Clarke Schmidt’s Future as a Starter

The Yankees have grown accustomed to entering Spring Training with a competition for the fifth starter role in the rotation, but Clarke Schmidt appears to be the front-runner for the job. That’s if the Yankees decide to add no one else to their rotation.

Cashman: “I think he pitched his tail off. I think he’s earned that opportunity. We’ll see how everything goes out. You’re always hoping that no one gets hurt, and that’s why you’ve got the young guys going and pushing and that’s why you’ve got the non-roster invites. I was really proud of the progress Clarke Schmidt took last year in his evolution.”

Photo by Getty Images

Takeaways

The 2023 season was Schmidt’s first as a full-time starter, instead of coming out of the bullpen in previous seasons. He finished with a 4.64 ERA over 159.0 innings pitched, but these numbers only scratch the surface of his effort last season. Schmidt struggled during the season’s early stages but found success from mid-May to early August, contributing towards a 3.12 ERA over 14 starts. He could see competition from top pitching prospect Will Warren and recent addition Luke Weaver. Stroman spoke on Schmidt, saying he is “going to be a guy for many, many years in this league. Once he fine-tunes the little things, his repertoire is incredible. He’s got some big, big, big-time stuff.”

The Utility Man

Isiah Kiner-Falefa enjoyed modest success as a super-utility player after losing his role as the starting shortstop to Anthony Volpe during Spring training of 2023. But, with his departure to the division-rival, Toronto Blue Jays for two years and $15 million, it’s unclear who will play the role of the Yankees’ utility man.

Takeaways

Oswaldo Cabrera looks to be the front-runner for the super-utility role moving forward. The former top prospect can comfortably handle infield duties at second base, shortstop, and third base while journeying to the outfield. He provides offensive versatility as a switch-hitter, but there is much to be desired regarding his batting, owning a .223 batting average and .641 OPS over two seasons in the majors. Cabrera has been bounced back and forth from the Triple-A team and still has options left. Oswald Peraza could also be viewed as a utility man moving forward, as he’s shown defensive prowess in heading up the second base, shortstop, and third base positions. If the Yankees opt to make a deal at the trade deadline, you could see Oswald Peraza included as a part of that deal, as he is still considered a top young prospect in the organization.

Jacob P.M.

Covering the New York Yankees - Find me on X/Twitter: @JacobBSpeaks

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