Gerrit Cole
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees landed their white wale in Gerrit Cole, but the incredible risk must be discussed.

Rich Mancuso

The New York Yankees officially shifted their stance relating to not offering a long-term and lucrative contract to a pitcher. It’s understandable; this was Gerrit Cole, who is expected to be the organization’s elusive difference-maker.

An inside source with knowledge of the Yankees’ thought process on this informed ESNY that general manager Brian Cashman did not have to plead his case. This was in his hands as the bidding war escalated.

There’s no question optimism should run amok. When the best pitcher in the game (arguably) is acquired, potential turns sky-high.

Just be careful when totally hopping on that positive train. Significants risks exist and the discussion must be had.

Cole is not CC Sabathia or Masahiro Tanaka, two of their long-term arms that have already delivered. Sabathia, before his knees gave in, was a catalyst on the mound for the Yankees when they won their last World Series title a decade ago.

Tanaka, for the most part, has been the Yankees’ most consistent postseason pitcher, but not in the book with Andy Pettitte.

Go back to October and the Yankees’ failures with their at-bats were the major and contributing factors in coming up short again to the Houston Astros. It was not Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton and J.A Happ who were to blame.

And it wasn’t the open bullpen and Chad Green that failed. The culprit this time, and failure to reach the club’s first World Series in a decade, perhaps to the hierarchy was their inability to have that dominant pitcher.

So there was a change in policy and Cole was their target. This dominant pitcher in baseball the past two years with the Astros could be the difference in 2020.

Cole, assuming he remains healthy for the duration of this record nine-year, $324-million contract with an option to opt-out after five, could be the answer.

He throws strikes and a majority of his outs come via the strikeout. That could get the Yankees their first World Series championship since 2009.

And, of course, the Yankees had the resources to pay Cole.

They upped their offer to obtain the prized free agent on the market. It could have easily been the Los Angeles Dodgers or the supposed frontrunning Los Angeles Angels, but the Yankees had the resources to do this.

And the magnitude of this contract is not what the Yankees have been accustomed to via free agency as of late. They haven’t been in this market since Tanaka and Sabathia and it shows their desperation to win it all and for a long time.

Gerrit Cole, Cole Train T-Shirt

Don’t forget that that key anytime soon… “a long time.”

You see, long-term contracts of this magnitude can backfire for a position player, a spot that pales in contrast to dishing out big bucks to an arm.

If this fails, we are talking about another bust of a contract, The Yankees now have two of the $300 million and record contracts (the other remaining Giancarlo Stanton, which is already off to a horrid start).

There are no expectations that the 2019 season of Cole, with a Major League-leading 326 strikeouts, league-leading 2.50 ERA in 33 starts, 20-5 and runner up for AL Cy Young Award will duplicate that in 2020.

He could still be that dominating pitcher, 35-10, and that 2.68 ERA in 65 starts, for the Astros that was seen the past two seasons. Cole is expected to be the ace of a Yankees pitching staff that will deliver their long-awaited World Series title and first of the new decade.

Gerrit Cole
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

But, the 29-year old needs to stay healthy as that innings eater. It is a risk the Yankees accepted. However, Cole has mastered his curveball and his four-seamer over the two-seam fastball made him that dominant ace.

Said a longtime AL scout, who has seen Cole often, “That change brought him to this level. (He) keeps it low in the zone and that’s what gives him so many ground balls.”

Ground balls from Cole will be important at his new ballpark in the Bronx.

And the Yankees now have the flexibility to do more. Brian Cashman will look into the contracts of Tanaka, Paxton and Happ, all up for free agency after the 2020 season.

All of those interesting elements come into play for the Yankees. But in the end, as much as pitching and defense win ball games, as the Yankees have, their potent lineup needs to hit in the most timeliness of situations (October). The 2019 ALCS failure at the plate cannot duplicate with Cole now onboard.

So throw away the theories of collusion from the owners. Zack Wheeler in the $100 million-plus range, Stephen Strasburg’s (already stale) record-breaking deal (Nationals $245 million) and now, Gerrit Cole, destroy such a narrative.

The big three on the pitching market are off the table. The Yankees got what they wanted. They have changed direction and salary thresholds to them, and staying away from the long-term and lucrative contract are no longer a part of their policy.

Cole, as manager Aaron Boone said, “Is a game-changing type of talent.”

The Yankees got their game-changer, but at what risk? If Gerrit Cole helps to deliver one or more World Series titles, that annoying “risk” factor will be thrown into the nearest Yankee Stadium trashbin.

If No. 28 doesn’t come soon, another aging pitcher blessed with an obscene amount of money will grace the headlines for years to come… yet again.

For now, it doesn’t matter; the Yankees finally pulled the trigger on their big-money arm and nailed it.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU