The Yankees have avoided shopping atop of the free agent market for some time now, but Gerrit Cole changed that. Cole evaded the Yankees on two separate occasions, once through the draft and another time through trade. With money being the determining factor this time around, the Yankees wouldn’t be denied. The desire for a true ace forced the Yankees to let go of their recent ways and sign Cole.
When the Yankees arrived at the winter meetings last week, the tenor felt different. The pursuit of Cole seemed from the get-go much more aggressive compared to recent potential targets. Last offseason, Manny Machado and Patrick Corbin came to New York, spending the day with front office members, seeing their pictures posted on the center field monitor, but didn’t see a commensurate contract offer.
However, this time around, the Yankees didn’t have Cole fly over to New York. Yankees brass instead flew to California, accompanied with Andy Pettitte to meet with Cole in his home state, like they did with CC Sabathia. Secondly, reports came out about ownership giving the okay for record spending on a pitcher. Lastly, the Yankees reportedly created a contraption that when opened displayed a miniature Yankee Stadium, containing an iPad with information of all Yankees Championship teams, places to live, and school options for kids.
Not only was their approach towards Cole different, but this free agency offered different traits compared to last year. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are both exceptionally talented, but neither of them are the best at their positions. In Cole, and to some extent Anthony Rendon, this free agent market featured players that could feasibly be seen as the game’s best at their respective positions. Harper and Machado offered talented players with age on their side as they entered free agency at 26-years old. That pair promised quality production over a long span, rather than the enormous peaks that Cole and Rendon have literally just reached.
After whiffing on Machado, Harper, and Corbin, many fans criticized the Yankees front office, while Brian Cashman continued to add veteran talent. They traded for James Paxton, signed a former batting champion and gold glove winner in DJ LeMahieu, and further solidified their bullpen with Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino. They didn’t make a big splash, but they still had a successful offseason by covering multiple holes over the course of the winter.
In each case, we’ve seen the Yankees find ways to improve the team. Each of these offseasons couldn’t have been more different, but the end result appears in both instances to be a better roster. Whether the Yankees are shopping for the biggest free agent on the market and firing one, huge shot, or spreading their money around to fill various gaps with veterans, the Yankees have proven they can succeed with varied approaches. There won’t always be an all-world player like Cole on the market, but the team has shown they won’t always need to rely on such a pitcher coming available in order to have a productive winter.
LeMahieu, Paxton, Britton, and Ottavino, all helped the team this year. Cole will almost certainly be dynamite in 2020, barring injury. These sets of players demonstrate different approaches to the offseason, but both seem to have helped the Yankees compete. This should leave fans with faith that Cashman and Co. will continue to find ways to better the team going forward.