Thoughts after the Yankees land Gerrit Cole

Just about everyone’s reaction after last night, I’d imagine.

If you’re reading this and are a Yankees fan, I’d bet you’re having a really nice morning right now. Whether you got a good night’s sleep and woke up to the Gerrit Cole news or stayed up late as the news broke, it’s no matter. This is the best news in a while.

Say it with me: Gerrit Cole is a New York Yankee. How great does that sound? Pretty, pretty good if you ask me. The Yankees did the thing we’ve all been hoping for. They also did the thing we’ve been waiting for them to do for years: dole out a big contract to a superstar.

What more can I say? I’m numb and speechless from the excitement of the news. It’s a good thing I wrote the rest of this post before the Cole news broke. I’m not sure I’d have been able to in the immediate aftermath. We’ll have a whole lot more on Cole in the coming days.

Ultimately, there’s no need to overthink this one. Be happy, everyone. I sure as hell am. Gerrit Cole is a New York Yankee and it sure sounds sweet.

Missing Didi as a fan. As great as the Cole signing is, yesterday remains somewhat bittersweet because the Phillies reportedly signed Didi Gregorius. I’m sad to see him go and I’m sure I’m not alone. After the news broke, Twitter was ablaze with fond memories of Didi’s time here, including his postgame victory tweets, clutch homers, and his success in the post-Derek Jeter era.

There was a great joy in watching Didi play for the Yankees. His passion made him incredibly fun and easy to root for, which was an element many Yankees teams lacked in years before his acquisition. Remember those business-like Yankees teams of the 1990s and 2000s? They were great, but I wouldn’t always define them as fun. Gregorius played a big role in making things different in the Bronx from many fans’ viewpoints.

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Missing Didi in the clubhouse. Of course, it’s not just us who will miss Didi. The shortstop was clearly incredibly popular among his teammates and grew into a leadership role. I noticed a couple of players shared fond farewells to Didi on social media, including Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres. They’re certainly not alone.

Didi’s departure marks the second significant hole to fill in the clubhouse. We all knew about and were prepared for CC Sabathia’s departure, as were his teammates, but Gregorius’s future beyond 2019 was murky.

Other guys in that locker room will have to step up in those two’s absence. I’m plenty confident in guys like Judge and Torres doing so, but still. Sabathia and Gregorius leave big shoes to fill, and there’s still the risk of losing other significant presences like Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner, and Austin Romine.

Gregorius’s departure puts a lot of pressure on Gio Urshela and Miguel Andújar. I tweeted about this after the news broke yesterday and I want to expand upon the thought. With Gregorius gone, the Yankees’ infield is officially set: Urshela/Andújar, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Luke Voit from left to right. Even without Didi at short, that middle infield is one of the league’s best. Voit should be just fine at first too. That said, there’s some real risk over at third base. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in Urshela’s all-around game and Andújar’s bat. However, it’s not that hard to envision scenarios in which either or both struggle in 2020.

Urshela was a late bloomer as a 27 year-old this season. Even though he delivered strong xStats per Statcast and a 121 DRC+, it’s not unreasonable to be somewhat skeptical of his breakout. Again, I think he’s for real, but I can’t help a little bit of doubt trickle in because of his limited track record.

Meanwhile, who knows how long it will take Andújar to be all the way back, if at all. The recent history of hitters who’ve returned from labrum surgery, including Greg Bird, is a mixed bag. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I don’t want to count on Miggy’s bat at the outset of 2020. Even back at full strength, missing a full season will require him to shake off some rust. All this not to mention the already legitimate concerns about his ability to handle the hot corner defensively.

If the Yankees had kept Didi, LeMahieu would have remained in his roving infield role next season. Remaining in that role would have protected the Yankees against significant regression from Urshela and/or Andújar.

Right now, the Yankees’ infield depth consists of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. I like both players, but they’re a steep drop from what could have been with Gregorius. Handing either of those two extended time due to poor performance or injury from the expected regulars isn’t ideal.

Trading Happ will be costly. If the Zack Cozart trade is indicative of anything, the Yankees will have to include a good prospect to get out of what’s remains on JA Happs’ contract. The Angels sent Cozart and their 2019 first rounder, Will Wilson, to the Giants. San Francisco is absorbing Cozart’s contract, approximately $13 million.

The Yankees are seeking a trade partner, but it may not be easy to find a match. Now, nobody was expecting a heist like the Chase Headley salary dump with the Padres a few years ago. But let me ask you this: would you trade any of the following prospects to shed Happ’s deal?

  • Luis Gil
  • Anthony Volpe
  • Estevan Florial
  • Ezequiel Duran

I’d rather not. All four of these guys had 55 grades put on them per Baseball Prospectus, the same as Wilson. Now, all of their major league ETAs vary, but it’s a good start for a comp.

Unfortunately, pulling a few trade comps based on scouting grades isn’t the end-all-be-all. Happ’s deal is more complicated than the just-dealt Cozart’s. The newest Giant was owed nothing more after his $13 million this year, whereas Happ is due at least $17 million. And, if Happ throws 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020, he gets another $17 million in 2021. That additional “risk” could cost the Yankees more in prospects. Now, any suitor for Happ could plan to manipulate his innings next year. That’s a slippery slope, of course, but not unheard of.

Ultimately, the Yankees shouldn’t be in the business of attaching prospects to get out from contracts they regret. If you’re going to trade prospects, trade them for someone who can help the team win now. The organization is a financial behemoth that can sustain itself with Happ under contract for one more season. After all, it’s hard to imagine Happ meeting his incentives this season while a member of the Yankees.

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On the Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa trade rumors. We’ve known about Lindor and Bryant being on the block for weeks and months now, but Correa is the latest addition to young studs supposedly available. And once again, it’s because of teams “facing tough payroll decisions”.

I’m tired of beating a dead horse, but let’s do so once more. It’s absurd that teams in the midst of its contention windows are contemplating trading its best players! Team valuations are through the roof, and yet, owners do not want to pay stars to maintain a winning club. As fun as it can be to speculate on blockbuster trades, this is just getting ridiculous.

Anyway, I really really hope we don’t hear about this with the Yankees anytime soon. Imagine the uproar if the Yankees decided to dangle Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres in the coming years? Good grief. I’d like to think the Yankees know better than that. Such a thing would be a massive slap in the face.

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27 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    A few things left to do

    1. Sign Gardy

    2. Make a decision on Dellin and Romine. Both would help, but I’d understand the Yankees moving on from them.

    3. Trade Happ. He creates a 40 man spot for Cole, and perhaps someone else on the 40 goes with him to create space for Gardy.

    4. Most importantly – overhaul the medical and strength/conditioning staff. With this roster, the Yankees should not have to endure another season with a bunch of soft tissue injuries, questionable initial diagnosis, and botched rehabs.

  2. dasit

    unbelievable the number of yankee fans on various sites worrying about “years eight and nine”
    are you kidding me?

    • Brian M

      Those years don’t matter at this point. If you believe the media we’ll all be dead by then anyway.

  3. The Original Drew

    People keep that the Yankees finally now have an ace. Are people just forgetting about Luis Severino? The Yankees now have two aces, which if you have played poker before, is better than one.

    • DJ Lemeddardhieu

      Sevy’s an ace but he’s not a true ace like Scherzer or Cole or Verlander. A true ace gives you 7+ innings every ballgame and never gets injured. Sevy was hurt all last year and Boone would pull him after 4. Maybe Sevy can become an ace again this year and that would give us a 1-2 punch that can compete with the Astros and Nationals. Cole, Sevy, Tanaka, Paxton is a WS winning rotation. Sevy, Tanaka, Paxton, Happ is a loser.

  4. MaryAnn Slater

    Psyched that we have Cole. Finally we got an ACE pitcher like Any Pettitte and CC Sabathia. Yippee!

  5. Brian M

    The different between Zack Cozart and Happ is that Happ actually has some value. Cozart hit .128/.178/.144 last season over 38 games. That’s probably what Happ’s batting line would have been if he had that many plate appearances. And while Happ was pretty bad last season, he did end the season pitching better with a 4.32 ERA over his final 10 starts (and 1.62 ERA over his final 5). If Happ were a free agent now, he’d probably fetch somewhere around $8-10M for a one year deal. So in reality the Yankees need to make up that $7M+ gap to whoever they trade him to, whereas Cozart was a complete sunk cost. Therefore I think the Yankees will not need to include a top prospect like the Angels did.

    • TackierFern

      Was Just going to comment the same thing. While Yanks would have to part with some decent value, I don’t think it’d need to be on the same level. Cosart’s contract is an anchor – no value. Happ a.) While underwhelming last year, is still a usable back end SP option for a lot of teams, b.) from 2016-2018 was 47-21 with a 3.44 ERA and a 3.91 FIP (only a year removed) and c.) could very easily bounce back some if they don’t use the mega home run balls next year.

    • Chris

      I agree with this. Also the Yanks need to get rid of 2 40 man rostered players to sign Cole and reinstate (at some point) German. Pick a prospect on the 40 man you don’t want and attach it to Happ and get back an A baller or some international cash.

    • Wire Fan

      Came here to say the same thing. The price on pitching is WAY UP as well (I think people will be surprised at what even a guy like Porcello gets).

      The main issue with Happ is that damn vesting option and how likely teams think it will vest.. A 2nd 17mil year makes that contract a tougher pill to swallow.

    • MikeD

      Yes.

  6. Cole better not go and get hurt. Because I don’t want to read the fallout about that.

  7. Derek – what you don’t seem to get is that all businesses, including baseball teams, operate on a budget. For the Yankees to get Cole it meant saying goodbye to Gregorius. It also meant not signing Machado, Harper, and Corbin last year. It also means that teams like the Indians have to trade their young stars as they become more expensive in order to sustain their contention windows. Sure team valuations are high and theoretically most of these owners could afford to open up the vault and sign everyone. But ultimately these are for-profit ventures, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Honestly, would it even be a good thing for baseball if 2 or 3 teams just started blowing away everyone else on payroll? Enjoy the fact that your team has one of the higher budgets in the game, and a front office that has the discipline to allocate the money properly.

    • Brian

      The budget the yankees are operating on is sort of self imposed and the Luxury Tax is kind of arbitrarily set. The yankees basically print money. They are one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet. The have the financial might to simply ignore the luxury tax and penalties and still make money. I understand they are a business, and probably the Steinbrenner Family’s primary income source (I don’t think they’re in ship building anymore). But these aren’t the Pirates or the Marlins.

      • MikeD

        Brian, if they simply operated above the third step in the luxury tax it would begin to have significant implications on the farm system and development. I do believe they can operate above the third tier for 2020, but they’ll have to come down below it the following year. I don’t believe that’s their plan however as I wrote on Mike’s blog. If that was their intention, they should be looking at adding multiple players on a one year deal. Didi would have fit in perfectly with that. The fact they didn’t do that means they’re planning to come in below the third luxury tax level for 2020.

    • DJ Lemeddardhieu

      George’s Yankees never had a budget. They kept their core and went out and signed FA’s. The payroll could be $300+ million and the Steinbrenners would still make billions of dollars every year. The Yankees are not the puny Cleveland Indians who have to scrimp and save every dollar. If George were alive, and we wish he was, the payroll would be north of $400 million and we’d have another 4-5 championship rings on our chubby little fingers.

      • BS. Everyone has a budget. Maybe you think the budget should be higher – that’s fair. But saying that money grows on trees for the Yankees and they can spend virtually unlimited money on free agents is silly. Let me put it this way. You have many billionaire MLB owners. How come none of them has ever blown away the competition on payroll? Doubled the next most expensive team. Raise payroll to like $600 million or so ($23 million per player on the 26 man roster) and you could literally sign the top couple of free agents every year. Why hasn’t it happened?

        And if it did happen, would that actually be something that is good for baseball?

    • Derek

      I mean, I’m a CPA so I think I know that businesses run on a budget. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. The Yankees payroll has been stagnant for almost two decades, especially in comparison to the growth of league revenues and team valuations.

      • Not liking that businesses run on budgets is sort of like complaining that the sky is blue. What you mean of course is that you want the budgets to be higher. But the basis you suggest, growth of revenue and team valuations, isn’t specific to the Yankees. All the teams have seen grown in revenue and team valuations. And if all the teams increase their budget at more or less the same rate, as apparently you suggest they should, how does that change anything for fans? It results in a similar distribution of talent and players get a bigger cut of the revenue pie. As a fan that’s a big nothing burger.

        Now if you are suggesting the Yankees should be the only team blowing up the budget you need to answer how it’s a good thing for baseball if one team dominates the free agency market. As a baseball fan, you don’t want to see teams like the Indians have to trade their young superstars to remain competitive with the Yankees. If the Yankees increased payroll to like $400 million it would only further reinforce the competitive disadvantage.

        • Derek

          How, as a fan, would your first scenario be a big nothing burger? If all teams’ spending grew in line (or even partially commensurate) with revenues/valuations over the years, there’d be better competition and much less tanking, if any.

          The Yankees spending relative to team revenue has *decreased* since the mid-2000s. They’ve clearly taken a step back in free agency since the winter of 2008/09. Look, the Steinbrenners can do what they want, but I’m not rooting for them to increase their profit margins.

          • If all teams increased spending at roughly the same rate it would mean almost no change in the distribution of talent. The best players in the world are already playing major league baseball. Increased salaries won’t bring in more talented players from elsewhere. And if the increased spending occurs uniformly it wouldn’t even change very much the level of talent on a team by team basis. So yes, a big nothing-burger.

          • If MLB actually wanted parity the best thing they could do would actually be the opposite of what you suggest – limit payroll via salary cap. If nobody could spend more than some arbitrary figure that is within reach of all teams.. say $100 million, then they would all be on equal ground.

            The obvious problem with that is the player’s union would never agree. But the logic still applies. If you want what’s best for baseball you want competitive balance. Raising salaries doesn’t increase competitive balance. Lowering them does.

  8. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Dad and I wept all night when we heard the Gerrit news, Derek, Between this and the Didi news our stock of Kleenex is almost gone. But the Cole news means we just won another WS. Finally after a decade of misery we have something to look forward to. I don’t give a damn how much money it was or how many years. I woulda went $600 million for 20 years if that’s what it took. This must have been what Hal was clipping all those coupons for the past decade.

    It’ll be sad to see Didi go but it was the right move. He had no place here. Gleyber is a better SS both offensively and defensively. DJ needed a full time position and now he can slide into 2B. Urshella and Andujar are one hell of a duo at 3B. But I can’t help but think that Joe is going to build a dynasty with these former Yankees the same way the Sox did with Nuney and Sam Pearce. We just have to hope and pray he doesn’t get his hands on Romine too.

    What a dumb deal that Happ contract was. Thank God it didn’t prevent us from getting Cole. This was a 36 year old on the decline they signed to a 3 year deal for no reason. Those are the deals the old Yankees made. I’m surprised Cash signed that deal. Happ was no better than some journeyman we could have picked up on the street. Any team taking him will want the Yankees to pay almost all of the contract and it’ll probably still be worth it for us.

    And I have no idea why these clubs would trade their best players. Is money that big of a problem, especially in Chicago? Pelicans traded Davis and now the Lakers are going to win 75 games. It’s just completely dumb unless it’s his last year and you know you can’t keep him or you want to turn him into Gleyber and Paxton like we did with Chapman and Miller.

  9. Dan A.

    I am so amped about Cole!!!

    Id like to re-sign Gardy and Dellin, but only on 1 year deals. I’d still like to trade for an infielder who doesn’t strike out much. Best options: Kevin Newman and Ketel Marte, though both will be expensive. Maybe Kolton Wong?

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hou has 4 hitters in the top 10 in K-rate. And I don’t see any sense in not going all the way and filling the Yanks last (arguable) hole to hold onto prospects.

    • D.B.

      Ketel Marte is going nowhere, at least for the offseason. He’ll either be their starting 2B or CF, they’re going to need that flexibility to field a team this season. I understand your desire, but there are reason why his name isn’t being floated in rumors AT ALL, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Newman Is a non-arb player who’s under team control through 2024 on a VERY cheap team, so he’s not going anywhere either. Maybe in a few years, once he hits arbitration (2022.)

  10. Flynn

    On Happ. He was bad last year, but not Cozart bad.. Hell, Kevin Gausman just got 9 mill. Pitching is still expensive, but in reality if Happ throws 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020, that $17 million in 2021 is probably a fair market deal for that type of pitching production (assuming a club doesn’t allow a dumpster fire to start 27 games or throw 165 innings).

  11. Joy Illimited

    Does anyone know Hal’s address so I can write him a handwritten letter apologizing for calling him cheap all year?

    Fantastic news, this is. If they can keep the players on the field this time around, this could be an awfully strong group.

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