MLB Notebook: Yankees name Nestor Cortes Opening Day starter after Marcus Stroman declines offer from manager Aaron Boone

Photo credit:© Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Holden
27 days ago
The New York Yankees’ pitching situation gets more bizarre by the day. Gerrit Cole will be out for 10-12 weeks while avoiding Tommy John surgery, so the Yankees need a new Opening Day starter. Manager Aaron Boone confirmed that Carlos Rodon will start the second game of the season, shifting their focus to one of the newest members of the team, Marcus Stroman. The veteran right-hander promptly declined. 
Stroman declined Boone’s offer to be the Yankees’ Opening Day starter because he wants to stay on his recovery plan and take the extra days off. 
I put a priority on my body,he said.
Stroman says he isn’t stressed about who the starter is, downplaying the importance of Opening Day. 
At the end of the day, it’s just another game. I’m not someone who is going to be upset if I don’t get the Opening Day nod.”
His focus is on a different target: 30 starts throughout the season.
I’m trying to go out there for 30-plus starts. That’s the goal for me. I have confidence in anybody we throw out there for Opening Day.”
Stroman is scheduled to start the Yankees home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, his former club, on April 5th. 
To pitch the Yankees’ home opener, that’s going to be pretty exhilarating for me. I can’t wait for that one.”
With Cole and Stroman off the table, the Yankees will turn to Nestor Cortes to take the ball on Opening Day in a couple of weeks. Cortes was one of New York’s best starters in 2022 but struggled through an injury-riddled season in 2023, as he posted a 4.97 ERA over 12 starts.
Since Cole’s injury, the Yankees have started poking around the pitching market. New York had reported interest in Dylan Cease before Chicago sent Cease to the Padres. The Yankees offer to the White Sox did not include their No. 2 prospect, Spencer Jones. The team’s new interest is free agents Michael Lorenzen and Mike Clevinger
Lorenzen had a decent season last year, posting a 3.58 ERA with the Tigers before being shipped off to the Phillies at the trade deadline. Lorenzen struggled with Philly and has yet to find a contract with two weeks before Opening Day. Clevinger missed 57 days last season with wrist and biceps injuries in 2023, but still managed to start 24 games for the White Sox. Clevinger also threw a sub-four ERA with a 3.77 whiffing 110 batters in 131.1 innings.
Neither pitcher would be ready for an Opening Day start, but if Cole’s injury takes longer than expected, they may be a perfect placeholder for the reigning AL Cy Young winner and the Yankees.  

Dylan Cease traded to the Padres

As mentioned earlier, Dylan Cease is on his way to the San Diego Padres. The White Sox will acquire a package of prospects from the Padres including their No. 5, 7, and 8 prospects, RHP Drew Thorpe, OF Samuel Zavela and RHP Jairo Iriarte.
Cease will join the Padres in Korea as San Diego expects Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove to start the first two games in the Seoul Series. The rumours have been swirling around Cease all winter, getting bites from plenty of teams, The Yankees’ recent push, the Rangers were reportedly close to acquiring the righty, and even the Angels apparently expressed interest in Cease
Cease had a relatively down season last season as his ERA elevated to a 4.58 in 2023, up 2.38 points from his 2.20 the year before. However, Cease has diced in Spring training, tossing a 2.16 ERA, striking out 14 in 8.1 innings pitched. With his lack of innings in Spring, it is unlikely he will get into any action in Korea against the Dodgers during the Opening Series, but Cease was still named to the Padres travel roster. 
The trade sent the clubhouse into a bit of a stir, especially amongst the San Diego Prospects. With the Friars sending out three of their top ten prospects, many in the pipeline were nervous they would be included in the deal. 
It wasn’t a fun hour-and-a-half to two hours of just waiting around,” said Robby Snelling, the Padres No. 3 prospect. 
Even the organization’s top prospect, Dylan Lesko, was anxious to see the return.
Every text we got was like a little panic attack.”
If the plan stays the same and Cease does not throw an inning in Korea, it is unknown when he will make his first appearance as a Padre. When San Diego returns from Seoul, they will still have two more Spring Training games to settle before the season kicks off on North American soil. Cease would likely get into one of those two games against the Mariners for one more tune-up before his debut with his new squad.

Young Guns taking center stage in Spring Training

Outside of the New York Yankees injury-laden camp, the story of Spring Training could be the exciting youth in baseball right now. 
Top draft picks like Jackson Holliday, Paul Skenes, and Wyatt Langford have continued to shine throughout the spring, plus emerging youngsters like James Wood, Spencer Jones and Chase DeLauter, and prospects who will make their teams like Jackson Merrill and Colt Keith; the future of the MLB is in some fantastic hands.
On Thursday, 2022 first overall pick, Jackson Holliday, matched up against 2023 first overall pick, Paul Skenes in the MLB Spring Training Breakout Series. Skenes went down 3-1 with a great bill of discipline from Holliday, but came back to strikeout baseball’s No. 1 prospect, showcasing his hard 101-mph fastball in the at-bat. The big, young righty threw one inning, striking out two.
Holliday has also had an impressive spring. The youngster has slashed a .297 average with a homer and five RBIs in 37 at bats. That home run Holliday hit was a grand slam against the Blue Jays in an 11-6 victory earlier this month. It remains up in the air if Holliday will be on the Opening Day Roster officially right now but the O’s did contemplate bringing up their top prospect late in the 2023 season and would likely be their starting 2B to begin the season. 
If he were to play with the big club this year, Baltimore would receive an incentive pick in the upcoming draft, a stipulation agreed upon in the most recent CBA. The stipulation is also not lost on Holliday either. 
Gives the teams more of an opportunity, I guess, to put their guys in the big leagues and try to win the Rookie of the Year.”
Another player in a similar situation is James Wood, a player we raved about a couple of weeks ago. Wood has continued his hot bat, sitting fifth in the MLB in OPS and slugging this spring with a 1.106 and .649 respectively, and tied for second in OBP with a .457. Wood has made his name well known in Nationals circles in Spring Training and could make the team out of camp. Could this new portion of the CBA help his case?
Teams really value those comp picks… It’s definitely like a neat little add that they did.”
The one player that sits above Wood in all of those stats, and a few more, in spring is Rangers No. 2 prospect, Wyatt Langford. Langford is tied for the most homers in Spring Training with five, tied for first in RBIs (14) with Freddie Freeman, and stands alone atop the slugging and OPS standings with .806 and 1.248. Thursday, Langford smacked his first grand slam of the spring against the Cincinnati Reds where he was the team’s DH and had four at-bats throughout the game. Out of all of these players, Langford is the most likely to make the Opening Day roster for me, and honestly could be the most impactful rookie across baseball. 
Spring Training this year has showcased some of the best prospects baseball has to offer and if these players continue to develop the way we expect, baseball is only going to get more exciting in the future. 

Quick notes:

  • Danny Jansen suffers a fracture in wrist. Jansen will miss “a couple of weeks” after fracturing his right wrist with a pitch inside, hitting his hand, against the Pirates on Wednesday.
  • Devin Williams likely out three months with a back injury. Williams will miss time with two stress fractures in his back, resulting in him missing numerous months to start the season. Williams signed a one year deal with the Brewers to avoid arbitration earlier this year. 
  • Jake Odorizzi returns to Tampa Bay on a minor-league deal. Injury-riddled Tampa Bay brings back the righty on a minors deal worth $1.5 million.
  • Adam Duvall back with the Braves. Duvall will sign a one-year, $3 million deal with the Braves, returning to the team he won the 2021 World Series.


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