Phil Hughes just gave Yankees fans an excellent reason to hope that prized free agent starter Gerrit Cole will land in the Bronx.
He also played high school ball just minutes from free agent righty Gerrit Cole’s school in Southern California. So, when Hughes told the New York Post’s George A. King III that Cole is a perfect match for the Bronx, his words carried extra weight.
“He is very much a California guy, but that doesn’t mean anything because everyone is different,” Hughes told King. “Mike Trout was supposed to go to Philly near where he is from. I think [Cole] would love to play in New York.”
During the 2019 ALCS, Cole showed fans why they should desire his presence on the Yankees’ roster. In Game 3, he shut the Bombers down with seven innings of four-hit dominance, giving the Houston Astros a series lead they never relinquished.
He then carried a 0.40 postseason ERA into the World Series against the Washington Nationals. After a substandard start in Game 1, Cole twirled a seven-inning three-hit gem in Game 5.
The performance prompted Hughes to remind the Twitterverse of his role in Cole’s rise to stardom:
When Gerrit Cole was an 8th grader he’d come and watch my starts as a senior. In a way I taught him everything he knows. You’re welcome Astros fans
— Phil Hughes (@PJHughes45) October 28, 2019
Although his Astros ultimately lost the World Series, Cole entered the offseason as arguably the top free agent available. That status immediately connected him to the Yankees, who, despite recent frugality, have yet to fully shake their big-spender reputation.
It also helps that Cole grew up a Yankees fan. What’s more, the Bombers drafted Cole out of high school; however, he chose to go to college and wound up in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization before Houston traded for him in 2018.
Cole, 29, is 94-52 with a 3.22 ERA in seven MLB seasons. He crafted a career year in 2019, leading the American League in ERA (2.50), ERA+ (185), FIP (2.64), and strikeouts (326).
If Hughes’s insight is trustworthy, Cole and that eye-popping resume have a decent shot at ending up in pinstripes.