With rumors of a record offer looming and mutual interest on both sides, Gerrit Cole is the New York Yankees’ man to lose.
It’s perfectly understandable why. Cole had a career year for the Houston Astros in 2019, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA. He also led the majors with an eye-popping 326 strikeouts in just 212.1 innings of work.
Sure enough, Cole has hit the open market and the Yankees have made it known how badly they want him. Last week, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported how owner Hal Steinbrenner had given general manager Brian Cashman the green light to make Cole a record offer.
On Sunday, Bob Klapisch of The New York Times reported the alleged offer would be for $245 million over seven years.
I'm told #Yankees have a seven-year, $245 million offer on the table for Gerrit Cole. Would be a record-setting contract for a pitcher, surpassing Greinke’s $34.4 million AAV. Question is whether #Dodgers or #Angels will go to 8-9 or even 10 years.
— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) December 8, 2019
The Yankees have wanted Cole ever since they drafted him out of high school in 2008. He opted to go to UCLA instead, and the Yankees weren’t able to swing a trade for him in 2018 either.
Now, however, the tables have turned. The Yankees are in a position to fend off other teams and make an offer that could blow rival ones out of the water.
To put it bluntly, Gerrit Cole is the New York Yankees’ free-agency target to lose.
Clearing out the competition
First things first, don’t let the Yankees’ recent penny-pinching fool you. This team is rarely shy about spending the big bucks.
It was barely a decade ago that Cashman spent nearly half a billion dollars to land CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in free agency. This is also the same man who paid $155 million, plus a $20 million posting fee to sign Masahiro Tanaka.
However, the Yankees are not without competition this time. Cole, a California native, has also drawn interest from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both teams would love to have Cole, especially the Angels. He grew up in Orange County, the team’s literal backyard. Owner Arte Moreno is also motivated to add him and could be willing to go beyond seven years and pay through the nose to get his man.
However, per Spotrac, the Angels could have trouble doing even that. Team payroll, as of now, is set at approximately $140.4 million ahead of arbitration. Factoring in smaller free agency signings and barring trades, this number will go up.
But the Angels’ finances are more complicated than that. Star outfielder Mike Trout inked a 12-year, $426.5 million ahead of last season. Albert Pujols is 40 and due $59 million through 2021. Justin Upton is due $72 million through 2022.
The point is even if the Angels did land Gerrit Cole, there wouldn’t be much of a team around him, especially in the starting rotation. As in, contending for a World Series or even the playoffs could take a while.
Now, let’s talk about the Dodgers. Like the Yankees, they too haven’t been shy about doling out big contracts to pitchers. In fact, Clayton Kershaw is their highest-paid player at $31 million a year.
The Dodgers are also in a strong position to sign Cole this winter, with Spotrac listing their total payroll at $163.3 million.
This is where things get tricky. Unlike the Angels, the Dodgers’ payroll issues aren’t about who is currently on the books. Rather, it’s the opposite. Reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and will want much more than the $605,000 he made in 2019. Powerful lefty bat Max Muncy will too seek a raise, and both men might wind up with team-friendly deals that buy out their remaining arbitration years.
Not only that, but the Dodgers are extending their reach outside of Cole. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic mentioned the team also likes third baseman Anthony Rendon. Passan reported Los Angeles also likes reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.
And even if the Dodgers did offer more money, their future is cloudy. Many key core players, namely third baseman Justin Turner, could soon move on. Manager Dave Roberts, whose playoff failures are well-documented, has no deal beyond next year.
That leaves the Yankees as the last team standing. They are not putting in all this work just to lose out on Gerrit Cole for the third time.
Early on, it seemed the Dodgers and Angels were considered the favorites to land Gerrit Cole in free agency. Everything has since changed when longtime MLB insider Jon Heyman reported Cole had “no West Coast bias” and brought it up during a four-hour meeting with the Yankees.
Not only did the Yankees go to California to meet with Cole, but Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported the meeting went well. No offer has been formally made, but the Yankees are extra motivated to land Cole.
As I’ve mentioned before, adding any pitcher this offseason means the Yankees have to get creative, but Cole is a special talent. Whatever headache he may cause in terms of trimming the roster afterward is worth it.
Look at it this way. Bruce Wayne himself could probably offer Gerrit Cole a literal ton of money to stop playing baseball and just run the Batcave.
The Yankees could still offer a better deal.
Cashman, go and get your man.