Over the last couple of offseasons, the Yankees free agency strategy has been clear. They were going to spend money on their terms. Their analytics staff shrewdly assigned a financial value to an “asset” and the front office didn’t budge from that valuation. They were so confident in their process that they’ve told some of the sport’s elite free agents to take their offer or leave it. The team didn’t believe any of the recent free agents were either the right player or available at the right time to justify a mega contract. This was a process that many Yankees fans (including myself last year) took issue with, but those were the rules the Yankees lived by.
Gerrit Cole is the exception to the rule.
He is so damn good that he forces even the smartest of teams to throw caution to the wind. The recent reporting by Jeff Passan tells us that the Yankees are ready to offer the ace pitcher a record setting deal. Cole has been the chosen one in the Yankees eyes ever since they drafted him back in 2008 out of high school. He was the chosen one when they were close to trading for him in the winter of 2017. Gerrit Cole is the one player who stirs up the old Yankees DNA and it appears they’re determined to claim the market’s top prize.
The team’s pursuit of the number one free agent comes as a surprise to many Yankees fans. After all, the team has passed on Max Scherzer, David Price, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Patrick Corbin to name a few. We believed Plan 189 was a long term strategy with an end goal of going on a historical shopping spree at baseball’s version of Nieman Marcus in the winter of 2018. Instead, the team went to Woodbury Commons and picked up some nice deals. They brought in some key contributors, but none of the new additions satisfied our craving for a big name.
Gerrit brazenly challenges the Yankee paradigm. Cole is the ultimate test of the Yankees’ resolve to be measured in their decision making. He is both a throwback player and a darling of the analytics age. He is a hard throwing, ultra competitor like Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, who will also grill an organization on how they synthesize data and present it to the players. Gerrit Cole is in many ways the perfect Yankee pitcher. He embodies exactly what they desire, but more importantly, demands a return to their Steinbrenner roots. It appears Gerrit is playing the game on his terms and the Yankees are finally acquiescing.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. I understand the skepticism, but you can never truly escape your core identity. The Yankees will always be a big game hunter. They are certainly more measured in their approach, but they will always be the big dog in the yard. They’ve found their target and now it’s time to seal the deal.