Every once in a while, a person comes into your life and immediately reminds you of who you truly are. It could be a long lost friend. Maybe it is a girlfriend or boyfriend or a husband or a wife. It could be a chance encounter with a person on the street. Gerrit Cole is that reminder for the Yankees.
As the Yankees moved further and further away from George Steinbrenner, their penchant for big ticket items seemingly decreased. The team didn’t want to be the big spenders in the room anymore. They wanted to be the smartest guys in the room. Of course, this was partially driven by a desire to maximize profits and avoid giving money to other teams, but there were baseball reasons to do this as well. Instead of pouring their deep reservoir of resources into the on-field product, they pivoted to creating an imposing analytics and development machine. The team successfully built a new core, but it was a conscious decision to build the engine out of sight instead of buying rims for the wheels or tints for the windows.
The signing of Gerrit Cole means the Yankees used a smooth black matte paint, smoked out the windows and put twenty four inches on a championship caliber sports car that’s revving up for the 2020 season. At first glance, the nine-year, $324 million contract flies in the face of the modern day baseball approach. It is a call to the old school when the winter meetings were the culmination of egregious and irrational spending.
Except the Cole contract isn’t an irrational investment. The deal doesn’t fly in the face of the modern day baseball approach. It is the end result of a process that requires measured spending and reliance upon analytics-based valuations. One of the most frustrating parts of seeing this run of measured spending is that we didn’t really know if the Yankees would ever be interested in hunting the big fish again. The growing list of elite players we saw sign with competitors was discouraging. Now, we can finally see the fruits of painstaking labor. A player of Cole’s caliber and his corresponding contract is exactly why you utilize strict valuations of lesser players when determining if you want to sign them or not.
And this is why the Cole signing is so encouraging. Yes, he is presumably going to provide ace level production for the next few years. Yes, the Yankees should be the odds on favorite to win the World Series next year. In a larger context though, we know this Yankees front office will pull out all of the stops to get who they really want. Gerrit Cole is now the symbol of Yankees’ balance. They efficiently and effectively built a strong foundation for a generational talent to stand upon. We didn’t truly know this was their end game until December 10, 2019.
Brian Cashman recently referred to Gerrit Cole as his “white whale.” Cash spoke about the long road the team has been on to acquire the pitcher. They missed out in the draft. They missed out on the trade market. It is pretty difficult not to believe the decisions made over the last couple of years didn’t have Gerrit Cole in mind. Sometimes people come into your lives that remind you of who you truly are. Gerrit Cole is that reminder for the Yankees. Now he will lead the team in trying to become who they once were. That is a World Champion.