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The Gerrit Cole signing pushes Yankees’ rotation to the top of the American League

According to Steamer’s projections, the Bombers’ unit will accumulate more WAR than any other AL contender

MLB: ALDS-Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, the Yankees secured the services of free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole, taking what was already a good rotation to elite status. If the team had been missing a piece in the last couple of seasons to push them over the top of the competition, it was an ace. Finally, they got one.

Cole will bring an otherwordly 2019 pitching line and a jaw-dropping skillset to the Bronx. He pitched 212.1 frames in 33 starts, with a 20-5 win-loss record and a 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP). He fanned hitters at an elite pace: 13.82 K/9 and 326 total punchouts are proof of his sick arsenal and pinpoint command.

According to FanGraphs’ pitch value chart, he had four different pitches in positive: his fastball (36.2 runs above average), slider (13.0), curveball (0.1), and changeup (0.4). He can get both lefties and righties out, almost at will, and he performed admirably in the postseason.

Cole’s arrival provides the Yankees with a clear-cut ace amid doubts about Luis Severino and James Paxton’s durability concerns. Along with Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, they will form a formidable tandem that will allow Aaron Boone’s squad to navigate postseason series against any potential foes.

Here is the Yankees’ current rotation depth chart:

1. Gerrit Cole

2. Luis Severino

3. James Paxton

4. Masahiro Tanaka

5. Jordan Montgomery

6. J.A. Happ

7. Jonathan Loaisiga

8. Deivi Garcia

9. Mike King

10. Chance Adams

Of course, that is unofficial, as things can change at any minute and any starter could climb or collapse in the depth chart. That doesn’t include Domingo German.

As things stand right now, and despite rumblings that the Yankees don’t absolutely need to trade Happ, they are surely shopping him around. And other teams appear to be interested, so he could be off the depth chart in days or weeks.

Now that Montgomery has completed his recovery from Tommy John surgery and even pitched a few major league innings near the end of the season, he should begin 2020 as the fifth starter as things stand today.

If the Yankees keep Happ around, he could provide nice depth. That’s where the question marks begin, though: is Happ capable of having a bounceback season after last year’s 4.91 ERA? Will Loaisiga take the next step and develop major league command? Will Garcia’s fly-ball oriented skill set translate to the bigs? Is Mike King’s stuff legit enough to retire MLB batters? Is Adams toast or will he show something?

While all of those questions are legit, the group is impressive and talented enough to navigate a season full of injuries, wear and tear, and potential ineffectiveness of one or multiple players.

How do they measure up to the rest of the American League contenders, though? For the purposes of this exercise, I have narrowed down the AL contenders to the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians, the Houston Astros, the Oakland A’s, and the Texas Rangers.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the Blue Jays, the White Sox, or the Angels, for example, make a splash in what’s left of the offseason and enter the group. It’s still early, after all.

Here are the projected rotations, as things stand right now:

Yankees: Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Jordan Montgomery

Rays: Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough

Red Sox: Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Hart

Twins: Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Randy Dobnak, Brusdar Graterol

Indians: Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Aaron Civale

Astros: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez

A’s: Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassit, Sean Manaea

Rangers: Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, Kolby Allard

Again, things may change in the coming days or weeks. For example, Boston is said to be shopping Price and they can’t feel comfortable with Hart as the fifth starter; the Twins are working night and day to make upgrades over Dobnak and they can send Graterol to the ‘pen; the Indians may or may not trade Kluber; things are bound to change at any time with the Astros; and Texas hasn’t even announced Lyles. For now, let’s stick with these groups.

Here are Steamer’s projections for each group in 2020 (as a unit):

2020 Steamer’s projections for AL contender’s rotations

Team Steamer (WAR)
Team Steamer (WAR)
Yankees 17.2
Red Sox 12.5
Rays 14.5
Twins 8.8
Indians 16.5
Astros 14.3
A's 10.4
Rangers 12.9

When the season finished and the offseason began, it was well-established that the Indians and the Astros boasted the AL’s strongest and deepest rotations. Now, with Houston losing Cole and the Yankees adding him, the Bronx Bombers take over the junior circuit’s top spot.

It jumps to our attention that the Astros fall all the way to fourth in the ranking, and that the Twins really do need one of Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, or Dallas Keuchel.

Of course, this is just an exercise using projections for 2020. Still, it sure is nice to know that what was viewed as a shortcoming at the start of the offseason is now a strength.