Who's a better fit with the New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole or CC Sabathia?
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Barring injury, the Yankees have one spot to fill in their starting rotation for 2018. Who should it be, CC Sabathia or Gerrit Cole?

Conceivably, the New York Yankees could pursue free agents Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta to fill out their rotation and still fall under the luxury tax threshold. Either one, though, goes beyond “filling out” the rotation and would raise ego issues about who the Yankees ace is and the order of the rotation itself.

In lieu of moving in that direction, the Yankees are reportedly considering a number of different options, including Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

At the same time, CC Sabathia remains somewhere between the back burner and the front burner on the Yankees Hot Stove to-do list, according to Newsday‘s Erik Boland.

Neither pitcher qualifies as an ace and would probably be slotted in the number four or five spot, depending on how strong the Yankees are in wanting to arrange their staff along lefty-righty lines. Both are capable of providing innings for the team wherever they are positioned, but that’s where the similarities end, unless you want to point to the time each has lost to injuries over the last two seasons.

In ages, Cole (27) is separated from Sabathia (37) by nearly a decade. For some, that alone would make the choice of Cole a no-brainer. Except that we’re talking about a pitcher who, towards the end of last season, in many ways, was the ace of the Yankees staff, making a series of pressurized starts for the team when they needed it most.

This is not the first time the Yankees have made a run at Cole.

They drafted him out of high school with the 28th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, but he opted to attend college. Over the summer, the Pirates dangled him at the trade deadline, only to pull him back while the Yankees moved on to add Sonny Gray for a couple of Top 100 Prospects. Cole fits into that range as well in terms of what he would now cost the Yankees in a trade.

This guy is maybe a little over the top, but he does have an interesting view to present on Cole:

Sabathia is an entirely different matter. It is fair to say the Yankees could have locked him up in a one-year deal in the $10-11 million range immediately following the World Series. But as time has gone on, both sides—as you can tell by Cashman’s lukewarm statement—have drifted more apart. And the emotional fire that was burning in November has now abated and it’s more a matter of business between the two sides.

Some reports now indicate Sabathia is looking for a two-year deal, which is more than the Yankees have interest in doing, given the pitching that’s on the way from their farm system.

Adding complexity to that is also the fact Sabathia is now drawing interest from other teams who also have a need for that all-elusive element in baseball – starting pitching.

George King III, for example, reports in the New York Post that the Los Angeles Angels, fresh from receiving the news Shohei Otani comes to them as possibly damaged goods are in the hunt for Sabathia’s services. As we know, competition usually drives a player’s price up, not down.

While most Yankees fans are familiar with Sabathia’s record over the years, here’s a summary of Gerrit Cole’s seasons in the big leagues. His lifetime record stands at 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA. He was an All-Star with the Pirates in 2015 when he went 19-8 and he’s pitched 200 or more innings twice, including last season when he finished with 203.

By any standard, Cole presents a fine resume and one the Yankees would be interested in. To sweeten the pot, Cole is in his second year of arbitration and will not be a free agent until 2020. Three-point goal.

Which one rules, your heart or your head?

If you’ve been a fan following the Yankees for a while, your heart is probably tugging at your head favoring Sabathia over Cole. In the same way, George Steinbrenner labeled Paul O’Neill as a Yankee Warrior, so too is Sabathia. But as we know, sentimentality in baseball is not a priority when putting a winning team together.

Cole would be a gamble, but a relatively cheap one, at least in the short term. He also has a proven record as a major league pitcher with a team that continues to falter in terms of providing run production for their staff.

My head wins over my heart on this one. We’ll see how Brian Cashman plays it, but Cole appears to be the better choice for the Yankees in 2018.

A fan of the Yankees for more than a half-century, the sport of baseball and writing about it is my passion. Formerly a staff writer for Empire Writes Back, Call To The Pen, and Yanks Go Yard, this opportunity with Elite Sports NY is what I have been looking for. I also have my own website titled Reflections On New York Baseball. My day job is teaching inmates at a New York State prison. Happily married with five grandchildren. Living in Catskill, New York.