Like it or not, the New York Yankees are the undisputed 2020 World Series favorites with the Gerrit Cole signing in the books.
Cole to Yankees for nine years and $324 million
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 11, 2019
This contract blows every record contract for a pitcher out of the water. The Yankees simply would not be denied in their pursuit of the best free agent on the market. The move instantly transforms the Yankees rotation into one of the best in baseball.
It makes them far and away the 2020 World Series favorites.
The complaints of Yankees fans in 2019 were all the same: “this team needs more starting pitching.”
Luis Severino missed nearly the entire season. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka weren’t performing their best until August. J.A. Happ went from a quality start machine in 2018 to an unmitigated disaster in 2019.
The team was forced to rely too heavily on their strong bullpen. Relievers were constantly forced to enter games in the middle innings to keep games in check. The Yankees even rolled out regular “opener” games featuring Chad Green and Nestor Cortes Jr. By the time the playoffs came around, the bullpen was absolutely gassed. When the Yankees needed those weapons the most, they simply couldn’t rise to the occasion.
All due to the reality that during the regular season, nobody in the starting rotation could consistently work deep into games.
Well, Cole can anchor that staff. The righty threw 212.1 innings in 2019. That’s 26.1 innings more than the Yankees innings leader—Tanaka. In those 212.1 innings, Cole threw to the tune of a 2.50 ERA and punched out a league-leading 326 batters. For comparison, the Yankees ERA leader was James Paxton at 3.82 who also lead the team in strikeouts with just 186. To do the math, that an extra 140 strikeouts for Cole, nearly double Paxton’s total.
Of course, regular season numbers don’t always tell the full story. A quick look at Clayton Kershaw’s career regular season and postseason statistics can tell you that much. So how does Cole stack up when the games matter most?
Well, in 65.2 career postseason innings, Cole has a 2.60 ERA and 78 strikeouts. 36.2 of those innings came in 2019, where he ended 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA. So yea, Cole performs with the season on the line.
Adding Cole to the rotation brings as much stability as it brings dominance. As the rotation currently stands, Tanaka will be the fourth starter on the depth chart. The Yankees have a lot of interesting options with the final spot in the rotation, but four out of five guys will give you a great chance to win every single day.
Notably, this also takes a great deal of pressure off of Severino and Paxton. Both pitchers possess the ability to be frontline starters. Severino even has the potential to be a Cy Young candidate. However, Cole is the clear No. 1 dog in the rotation. The pressure of being the rotation’s stopper can fall solely on him. Severino and Paxton now have the freedom to pitch to their strengths every week without bearing the burden of needing to be perfect every time out.
Offensively, having a pitcher that can throw seven shutout innings any given game can open up a lot of options. Manager Aaron Boone can afford to take more risks on the bases or play small ball, knowing that his team doesn’t need five or more runs to win a game. Given Cole’s strikeout proclivity, less than stellar defensive players can play more often. Certainly, Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier’s defensive woes aren’t as concerning when your pitcher is a strikeout machine.
At the end of the day, a Cole-Yankees marriage was too perfect of a fit to pass on. The Yankees made it their mission to go out and sign this player because of his talent and competitive nature. They saw it when they tried to draft him out of high school. The team even tried to trade for him during Cole’s time with the Pittsburgh Pirates. General manager Brian Cashman has pursued Cole for years and finally, he got his guy.
Gerrit Cole is destined for greatness in the Bronx. This move is the final piece of the championship puzzle for the Yankees. The team’s greatest weakness in 2019 becomes one of the best rotations in all of baseball in an instant. The offense and bullpen remain elite.
With the addition of Gerrit Cole, the New York Yankees have become the most complete team in baseball. How could they not be the clear-cut favorites to win it all in 2020?