Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has finally landed his white whale.
Sources from the MLB Winter Meetings have said the Yankees and Gerrit Cole have agreed to a record-setting deal for a pitcher. Cole will be coming to The Bronx for a record 9 year, $324 million deal, with an AAV (average annual value) of $36 million a season. It is the most expensive contract for a starting pitcher by almost $80 million.
The historic deal only came a few days after another historic deal was made between Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. The Strasburg deal was for 7 years, $245 million, clocking in an AAV of $35 million. Reports claimed that the initial offer from the Yankees to Cole was what Strasburg received (7 years, $245 million). With Cole being two-years younger and having an injury-free history (Strasburg had Tommy-John Surgery in 2010), the contract demands for Cole increased.
Cole and Strasburg are both Scott Boras clients, but Cole seemingly has received the more player-friendly, aside from the amount of money. According to a slew of MLB insiders, Cole has an opt-out-clause after 5 seasons, a full no-trade clause and no deferred money (something the Nationals are famous for). The contract will take Cole through his age 38-season if he does not opt-out.
Cole has been the apple of Cashman's eye ever since Cole was in high school. The Yankees drafted Cole out of high school in 2008 but were spurned for UCLA. Cole was then drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the first pick in the draft. The Pirates made Cole available in 2017 for trade, and Cashman made his second attempt to capture his white whale, but the Houston Astros had the better offer.
Cole was finally a free agent and after a decade without a World Series appearance, Cashman and the Yankees would not be denied. The Evil Empire is back.
Cole is coming off one of the greatest seasons ever put together by a starting pitcher. The 6' 4", 240-pound righty posted a 20-5 record with an AL-leading 2.50 ERA and leading the entire MLB in 326 strikeouts, a Houston Astros record. The strikeout numbers in Houston had significantly jumped since he joined the Astros. Cole's SO9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings) with the Astros (13.1) jumped nearly 5 full points from his days in Pittsburgh (8.4). Cole's WaR (wins above replacement) has also drastically increased since his Pittsburgh days. Cole's WaR in two seasons with the Astros is a combined 6.05 (All-Star caliber player tier) while with the Pirates it was a pedestrian 2.26. Cole finished in the top five for the Cy Young award the last two seasons, with the season finishing second place to former teammate Justin Verlander.
Cole made his money this season when he went on a mind-boggling run starting in May until Game 1 of the Worl Series. In his last 27 starts, Cole went an outstanding 20-1 with a 1.78 ERA over 183.1 innings with a stellar 0.82 WHIP and 13.4 SO/9.
The Yankees add Cole to a decent to a not-good starting rotation that lost 39-year-old lefty CC Sabathia to retirement. Cole instantly slots into the number starter position and moves down starters Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and a combination of Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German (pending suspension) and minor-leaguer Deivi Garcia.
The sense of urgency from the Yankees in signing Cole might also be aided by the fact that Tanaka and Paxton are free agents at the end of 2020. With Severino on a team-friendly contract (4 years, $40 million), the Yankees possibly be Cole and Severino to be the perfect 1-2 with patch-working the rest of the rotation. Adding Cole to this rotation has instantly made it one of the premiere rotations in the league. Adding Cole to this team has made the Yankees the odds on favorites for the World Series next season.
With the signing to the Yankees, there is a ripple effect throughout the rest of free agency. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers were said to be in on the Cole sweepstakes as early rumors said Cole preferred the west coast. With the signing, the Angels are said to now revert to their plan B which includes setting their sights on third-baseman Anthony Rendon and spreading more money around on other free agents. The Dodgers are reported to be looking at lefty World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, another pitcher that is said to be of interest to the Yankees.