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Yankees sign Gerrit Cole, designate Chance Adams for assignment

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The Yankees finally got their man!

2019 World Series Game 5 - Houston Astros v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It was a move 11 years in the making, but late on Tuesday night, the Yankees caught their white whale. According to Jon Heyman, the Bombers agreed to a nine-year, $324 million deal with the right-hander. Joel Sherman says the Yankees gave him a full no-trade clause, while Jeff Passan notes there’s an opt-out clause after year five.

Cole, 29, received the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. Stephen Strasburg previously held the record with a seven-year, $245 million deal signed...on Monday. He is just the fourth player in history to receive a deal north of $300 million. His AAV of $36 million also represents the all-time record.

The ace right-hander had an outstanding year in 2019, finishing second in the American League Cy Young voting. He pitched to a 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP) with a 0.89 WHIP over 212.1 innings. He also limited free passes (2.03 BB/9) and generated a decent number of groundballs (40.3%). The only weak spot is his profile traces back to the long ball, with a 1.23 HR/9, a mark significantly worse than his career norm.

Cole represented the game’s premiere strikeout artist in 2019. He led all starters in strikeouts (326), strikeouts per nine (13.82 K/9), and strikeout-to-walk ration (34%). He;s the first pitcher to eclipse 320 strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson notched 334 in 2002. Additionally, he led the league in innings pitched and finished second in ERA- (56) to Hyun-jin Ryu.

Since joining the Houston Astros prior to the 2018 season, Cole elevated himself to the game’s highest level. Pitching coach Brent Strom had the right-hander shelve his sinker and focus on elevating his fourseasm fastball. His slider, which boasts a high spin rate, then became his go-to secondary offering. Getting away from the Pirates’ pitch-to-contact philosophy restored Cole to the elite form he once had as a top prospect.

His arsenal combines elite velocity with upper-echelon spin rate. In 2019, Cole’s heater averaged 97.1 mph—ranking in the 97th percentile. The spin rate on the pitch, 2530 rpm, placed in the 96th percentile. The same goes for his wipeout slider (89.2 mph, 2622 rm) and curveball (82.6 mph, 2901 rpm). His hook ranks in the 94th percentile.

No stranger to the spotlight, Cole has extensive postseason experience. Over 65.2 innings in October, he owns a 2.60 ERA. His 2019 playoff run proved notably impressive, with a 1.72 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 36.2 innings. That included two World Series starts. Houston alsio ranks as the seventh-largest media market in the country, so there should be no concerns about Cole’s ability to handle pitching in New York.

The Yankees have long coveted Cole. They drafted him 28th overall in the 2008 Draft, despite his extreme signability concerns. The Bombers prepared to offer him an overslot bonus, but he honored his commitment to UCLA instead. The team once again tried to land the right-hander in the 2017-2018 offseason, seriously engaging the Pirates in trade talks. While they made traction, no deal came together, and Cole found himself in Houston.

The Bombers have long wanted to bolster their rotation with a set it and forget it ace. They have exactly the right man now with Cole. Long live the Evil Empire, right?

Update (12/18/19): The Yankees made the signing official. As a corresponding move, the club designated Chance Adams for assignment.