Last year will be remembered not only for the amount of talent that was available during the offseason, but also because the Yankees finally got under the luxury tax threshold. Right when it seemed like they prepared themselves to get one of the big fish, they didn’t. They didn’t even entertain the thought of Bryce Harper, and they never got close to landing Patrick Corbin or Manny Machado. The Yankees turned their focus to shorter contracts in players like DJ LeMahieu, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and J.A. Happ.
Even though they didn’t acquire any of the top free agents, they gave themselves a little more financial flexibility for multiple seasons to come. With extensions becoming the new trend in Major League Baseball, many of the offensive players who would have headlined the next free agency class have already signed their contracts. What remains is a class focused on starting pitchers and Anthony Rendon.
Depth is an area the Yankees have been paying a lot of attention to. The addition of DJ LeMahieu in an already crowded infield reflects that, as does a bullpen consisting of four closers. With CC Sabathia retiring after this season you have to imagine the Yankees will be looking for starting pitching once again. If they do sign a fifth starter through free agency, that currently would leave the rotation’s depth as Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery, and Jonathan Loaisiga.
When this season comes to an end, Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler will have suitors looking for their services. Out of the three, Cole is the one pitcher the Yankees have shown plenty of interest in before. Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2008 as the 28th pick, Cole decided to go to UCLA instead. A decade later he was up for grabs once again courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bombers made their offer but came short as they refused to add Miguel Andujar into the trade.
Cole has shown an incredible amount of potential before and it was all on display last year pitching for the Houston Astros. He has thrown 200 innings three of the last four seasons, which is something no Yankee starting pitcher has done in that span. Cole finished first place last year between all qualified pitchers with a 13.9 K/9 rate. He managed a six-win season, finishing the year fourth overall among pitchers in WAR.
With the exception of Happ having a mutual option available for the 2021 season, Severino is only other pitcher in the rotation locked up for that season. The addition of Cole would add a coveted player from the front office’s point of view and much needed stability. The Yankees are hoping German and Montgomery will be part of this rotation as well, but a veteran who has proved he can eat innings and be productive is always welcomed.
Of course, some fans may be a little wary of the Yankees and top free agent talent, after they passed on Machado and Corbin. It’s okay to be optimistic about the Bombers signing Cole though. Unlike Machado, he doesn’t have to replace a rookie of the year runner-up or a beloved left-handed short stop in Didi Gregorius. And Unlike Corbin, Cole has been more consistent from 2013 to 2018. Cole has a total of 21.2 WAR while Corbin totaled 14.6. Nothing is promised in baseball but a rotation with Severino, Cole, and Paxton would be a great way to begin the 2020 season.