Gerrit Cole pitches for the Yankees now. That may come off as a shock, so I’m going to repeat it: Gerrit Cole pitches for the Yankees. I’m going to try to get through my initial, off-the-top thoughts without swearing or delving into babble, so wish me luck.
- Occam’s Razor
Turning prospects into quality MLB players is great, and the Yankees have done well in that department over the past few years. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino have all been major pieces of a great MLB team who were prospects within the organization at one point. Taking castoffs from other teams and making them productive is also great; Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks are great examples of this.
But man, sometimes you just have to go out and get the big fish. Cole was perfect for the Yankees: the best pitcher in baseball, still in his prime, hungry for a big spotlight and an analytically-focused team. All it took was ponying up the money, and the Yankees delivered. Keep it simple, sign the best guy available.
2. Get ready, New York
One of the things that dominated my thinking in the Cole sweepstakes was that he was potentially underrated in terms of his dominance in 2019. We’re all Yankee-focused here, and Justin Verlander won the Cy Young Award. Cole, though, he was on another level this year.
My favorite tidbit about Cole’s dominance came from Effectively Wild, where Sam Miller did a bit of research and found that, if Cole started every hitter he faced with a 1-0 count, he would have had the third highest strikeout rate in all of baseball. More than 30% of the batters who went up 1-0 against Cole in 2019 ended up striking out, and that’s just ludicrous to think about.
I legitimately don’t know if any Yankee pitcher in the last twenty years can measure up to Cole’s pure dominance; even CC Sabathia after 2008 didn’t miss bats like that. Even if he doesn’t quite replicate his 2019 success, it’s going to be a fun year in the Bronx.
3. It helps the depth, too
It kind of felt like the Yankees were in need of That Guy, didn’t it? Luis Severino has shown a ridiculously high ceiling, but injury and inconsistency has so far kept him from that mark. James Paxton is great when on, but is often off the field. We all love Masahiro Tanaka, but he’s just not on the elite tier of starters.
Enter Cole. Adding a star, a real star like Cole, also helps your depth. Suddenly, James Paxton is the number three pitcher in your rotation. Who knows what will happen with J.A. Happ, but if he’s traded or sent to the bullpen, Mike King and Jordon Montgomery begin a battle for a final rotation spot, which means the loser is an incredibly talented first guy up when injury or a lack of off days force the Yankees’ hand. Depth moves don’t have to be the guy on a two year, $20 million move. Every addition to the roster bolsters the team, and the Yankees’ rotation is that much deeper now.
4. Financial strength is a means, not an end
Cole was going to get $300 million no matter where he signed. The Yankees are the most valuable entity in baseball. Their revenues are sky high and will only increase with the YES Network back in the fold, and leveraged by strategic partners like Amazon. What on Earth is the point of being the financial juggernaut of MLB if you don’t use it?
From the early reporting, it sounds like Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and company weren’t going to be denied. They knocked at least two big-market teams out of the running with a $324 million offer, knowing they have financial resources that nobody else in baseball can access. It’s going to pay off.
5. Could the bullpen get even better?
One of the reasons Cole is such a catch is, he is one of the great workhorses in baseball. The Yankees don’t really have a 200-inning guy they can count on with regularity—Cole’s done it each of the last two seasons. That kind of workload takes a few innings off an extremely potent bullpen, without a real drop-off in run suppression since, again, Gerrit freakin’ Cole is pitching those innings.
There’s been a lot of speculation that the overuse of Yankee relievers in the past couple seasons has led to skids when it matters most. With Cole, some of those innings are going to be sucked up. In theory, that should lead to less burnout, fewer meltdowns, and better pitching from top to bottom.
It’s been a long time since the Yankees made a move like this. I texted Tyler almost immediately after the signing was announced that this felt bigger than Stanton. Regular readers know me, you know that I’m going to hunker down with a terabyte of spreadsheets and find something in Cole that could be troublesome. For right now though, the Yankees just signed the best pitcher in baseball, and that feels really, really good.