The New York Yankees could look no further than their 2008 first round pick to reinforce a shaky starting rotation.
Back in 2008’s amateur draft, the New York Yankees selected right-hander Gerrit Cole out of Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, California who refused to sign with them in order to forgo a college career at UCLA.
Then, in 2011, Cole was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and has experienced a surplus of success since being called up in 2013.
In 94 big league starts, he has won 47 games while maintaining a 3.23 ERA, which is the eighth-lowest among right-handers in the National League since his promotion.
In 2015, Cole came in fourth place in the NL CY Young Award Voting by setting career highs in wins (19), ERA (2.60), strikeouts (202) and hits per nine innings (7.9).
Unfortunately for Cole, he landed on the disabled list on two occasions in 2014 thanks to fatigue in his right shoulder and lat tightness. Plus, his struggle with elbow inflammation in 2016 forced him to pitch just 116 innings, a career-low.
Thanks to those injury concerns, the Pirates have reportedly shown disinterest towards an extension passed the date in which his contract expires.
Tag that along with the dispute Cole and his employer had prior to the season — in which he had asked for a raise after a stellar year and was threatened with league minimum ($507K) — it’s safe to say some bad blood could force Cole’s exit.
The 26-year old is expected to go through the arbitration process this offseason and is scheduled to hit the free agent market after 2019.
The Yankees, however, should jump this offseason and bring him to the Bronx to help reinforce a vulnerable rotation. Why? Because, truly, New York only carries three reliable arms.
After Masahiro Tanaka (third best ERA in AL), CC Sabathia (best season since 2012) and Michael Pineda (AL Leader in K/9), you have three unproven kids under 25-years old competing for two spots.
One of those kids served up an 8.50 ERA as a starter (Luis Severino), one served up 11 home runs in nine starts (Luis Cessa) and one had his season cut short due to an elbow injury (Chad Green).
And one could argue that Pineda — who is one of six players in MLB history to strikeout more than 200 but have an ERA over 4.80 — is unproven as well, but New York needs to consider adding an arm into the crowded mix.
Although general manager Brian Cashman made it clear during his “State Of The Yankees” address that dealing the farm for a top tier starter is “dangerous,” Cole will likely come at a discount given his down year and squabbles with Pittsburgh.
Additionally, by the looks of his latest trends, and Cashman’s relationship with Neal Huntington (three trades in past three years), Cole may be New York’s ideal target this winter.
Over the last couple of years, the Yankees have been able to wheel in young, promising, and proven talent that had fallen out of favor with their respective organizations.
Nathan Eovaldi, Aroldis Chapman, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Dustin Ackley, and more were added for a favorable price. Heck, even Billy Butler was signed at league minimum for a clubhouse issue in Oakland which forced his release.
So, is he the ideal candidate to improve the rotation? Absolutely not, but I hope fans realize that there will be no move to bring in Chris Sale.
What a healthy Cole could be, however, is the ideal compliment behind Tanaka, a young, proven star with three years of team control, and has the potential to make the Yankees’ rotation be one of the better staffs in the American League.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.