With the Winter Meetings less than a week away, the hot stove has started to heat up across baseball. The pitching market, in particular, appears notably active. Plenty of the buzz around those arms involves the Yankees, so here’s a quick rumor primer to bring you up to speed.
Yankees meeting with Gerrit Cole today, Stephen Strasburg tomorrow
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), the Yankees have a delegation in California to meet with the top free agent pitchers: Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. The meeting with Cole was scheduled to take place today, while the rendezvous with Strasburg will occur tomorrow.
The Yankees’ pursuit of Cole has taken on a seriousness not seen in last year’s free agency, explains Joel Sherman. He notes that Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and Matt Blake made the trip out to California ahead of the Winter Meetings to sit down with the aces. Whereas the visits of Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado last year were held more out of politeness than actual interest, all reports point to the Yankees meaning business here.
Cole, 29, had a stellar year for the Astros in 2019, pitching to a 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP) with a mind-boggling 34% K-BB rate. He did all that over 212.1 innings, his third-consecutive year over the 200-inning threshold. You can read more about him in our free agent target post.
Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler seen as secondary targets
If the Yankees can’t land one of the prized arms, they have their eyes set on a few consolation prizes. According to Andy Martino, the team is keeping tabs on right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler and southpaw Madison Bumgarner.
Wheeler, 29, turned in another strong season in 2019, pitching to a 3.96 ERA (3.48 FIP) over 195.1 innings. The Yankees have long liked the right-hander, as they frequently appeared linked to him in various trade rumors. He fits their MO as a hard thrower with a big spin rate on his pitches.
Many believe that he would thrive with a more progressive organization. Pairing him with Blake and a new pitching program could unleash untapped potential.
Bumgarner, 30, at the very least has some in the front office pulling for him. The left-hander stayed healthy throughout the 2019 season, pitching to a 3.90 ERA (3.90 FIP) over 207.2 innings. With a declining strikeout rate (8.80 K/9) and a propensity to give up home runs (1.30 HR/9), he doesn’t fit in the Bronx as neatly as the other three free agents. Bumgarner’s a name brand, but a decidedly lesser pitcher.
Wheeler bidding clears $100 million, could sign soon
One final note on Wheeler, as Jon Heyman reports the right-hander has a nine-figure offer.
Hearing Zack Wheeler deal before the Winter Meetings is very possible — maybe even probable. @Ken_Rosenthal reported bidding has already hit $100M, not a surprise considering age, innings, velocity, potential and signs of dominance. White Sox, Twins, Rangers, others in.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 3, 2019
He could come off the board soon, leaving the Yankees with one fewer fallback option.