Posted on December 11, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The biggest fish in the MLB free agent pond has been caught. Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole has decided to sign with the New York Yankees. The two sides have agreed to a 9-yer deal worth $324 million. The contract will break records the most money and the highest average annual income ever given to a pitcher, records that were previously broken earlier this week by Stephen Strasburg re-signing with the Nationals. In fact, Cole’s $36 million per year average is the highest of any player in big league history.
While signing a record-setting contract gives Cole a lot to live up to, it’s hard to deny that such a big deal is warranted. Since being traded from the Pirates to the Astros two years ago, Cole has been utterly dominant. He was 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 2018 and was even better this past season, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, finishing only behind teammate Houston Justin Verlander in the Cy Young voting. Cole was even better during the 2019 postseason, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA over five starts despite the Astros coming up one game short of a World Series title.
“Obviously when you are talking about a player at the level of Gerrit Cole, in a lot of ways, that’s a game-changing type talent,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Cole had agreed to sign with New York. “I think we all understand we have a special team that’s hopefully in the middle of a chance to do some great things.”
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In many ways, Cole and the Yankees are a perfect fit for one another and it was inevitable that he ends up in pinstripes despite serious efforts by the Dodgers, Angels, and Astros to sign him. The Yankees drafted Cole in the first round of the 2008 draft, although he passed on that chance and attended UCLA instead. However, Cole grew up a Yankees fan despite living in Southern California. After failing to trade for him two years ago when the Pirates made him available via trade, the Yankees finally got their man while Cole is headed to the club he rooted for as a kid.
Many believed that Southern California teams like the Dodgers and Angels would have an easier time persuading Cole to come home. However, sources close to Cole indicate that the opportunity to win a championship was his top priority. Between that and his boyhood fandom, Cole’s choice was always going to be the Yankees.
He will now headline a rotation in the Bronx that also includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton. The Yankees were without Severino for most of 2019 because of injury, depriving them of their ace. New York now has two aces with Cole and Severino at the top of their rotation along with two proven commodities in Tanaka and Paxton, giving them one of the deepest rotations in baseball when everyone is healthy. JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, and a few other young pitchers are also in the mix. However, the Yankees were reportedly looking to trade Happ, even before agreeing to terms with Cole.
“We feel like we have the makings of a really good rotation,” Boone said. “I feel like sometimes our rotation doesn’t quite get the credit that I think it deserves. Obviously adding a guy like Cole to that mix makes it one of the best.”
Of course, Cole’s contract comes with big expectations for him while signing Cole comes with big expectations for the Yankees. It’s now been over a decade since their last World Series title and the fanbase is growing restless for another one. With Cole joining a club that has arguably the most potent lineup in baseball and a pitching staff that was good enough to win 103 games in 2019 without him, without Severino, and with an inordinate amount of injuries, there will be no viable excuse for the Yankees not winning the 2020 World Series.