The Yankees came into the season with the exact same rotation as they ended up with last year. That wasn’t exactly on purpose, as they had no control over Masahiro Tanaka’s contract status and attempted to make a deal for another arm. However, it is clear less than a month into the 2018 season that they need more pitching depth, so the Yankees went out and got some. Last night they traded for A.J. Cole, but what can he offer this team?
A 2010 fourth-round draft pick with the Oakland Athletics, Cole was involved in a three-team deal that sent him to the Washington Nationals. In four seasons with the team, he only managed an ERA under 5.00 once, with a 3.81 ERA in 2017. He is also just 26 and has not yet managed to become a full-time big leaguer. A few disastrous appearances resulted in him getting designated for assignment just three weeks into the season. If we’re being honest, it’s clear the Nationals lost faith in him long before this year.
The problem is that Cole essentially has average velocity, with a 93 mph fastball, and very little to offer in his secondary stuff. He is mainly a fastball-slider pitcher, but he also has a changeup and curveball in his arsenal, as well as a sinker. As a result, he generates a decent amount of groundballs, but not enough to truly be considered a “groundball pitcher.” Instead, he generates a lot of contact, resulting in a lot of fly balls. We all know what happens to fly ball pitchers in Yankee Stadium.
It’s hard to tell if the Yankees see something in him that they may be able to fix or if they are so desperate for pitching depth that they will take any warm body they can get for a mere song and dance. Cole won’t be arbitration eligible until 2020, but he is also out of options at this stage in his career. He has already been added to the 25-man roster, so expect him to pitch out of the bullpen for the time being. Cole is still young and therefore could be malleable to different pitching guidance, which could hopefully turn his career around.
That being said, don’t expect him to develop into much of a powerhouse when coming out of the bullpen. The velocity just isn’t there and his stuff is not very impressive. Instead, he will likely be used as something of a longman out of the bullpen until he is needed to make a start in an emergency. He’s not going to solve this team’s pitching depth problem, but at least he’s around to give the Yankees another body in case he is needed.
Brian Cashman tried to get Gerrit Cole in the offseason, but it never worked out. Now he’s gotten a Cole, it’s just too bad he’s the wrong one. This team will remain in the hunt for more pitching depth all throughout the summer.