After eleven long years, Gerrit Cole is finally going to wear pinstripes. The Yankees and their white whale have agreed to a nine-year, $324 million deal that includes a no-trade clause and no deferrals. Jon Heyman was first with the news. It is the largest contract ever given to a starting pitcher in MLB history by $107 million and tied with Mike Trout for the highest annual average. I love it so very much.
Cole now sits atop a Yankee rotation that also includes Luis Severino, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka. Cole will singlehandedly turn what was a weakness for the Yankees in 2019 into a major strength for 2020. It’s hard to argue that any team in baseball is more complete than the Yankees right now, honestly.
Cole pitched to a 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP) with an absurd 40% strikeout rate in 212.2 innings pitched last year for Houston. His 6.9 bWAR would have made him only the third Yankee pitcher in 40 years to compile a total that high. I profiled him in-depth a few weeks ago, and I really don’t have that much more to say about him that I haven’t already. Check that out if you missed it.
Simply put, Cole is a game-changer for New York. No pitcher will become available during the Yankees’ current title run who is better than Cole, so if the front office and Hal Steinbrenner were going to commit nine-years, $324 million to anyone, it should have been Cole. This is a very good day for the Yankees.
The ninth year of the deal is probably a bit surprising to some folks. It marks a major departure for how the Yankees have operated in recent years–and the direction of the league generally–but it does make sense. Cole is a special player and he is exactly what the Yankees needed. And sure, it is true that the 2028 and 2029 seasons may not be the finest of Cole’s career. But you know what? Who the hell cares. What matters now is right now. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009 and they are now the likely favorites going into 2020. This is the type of move you have to make to get over the hump.
After all, if you’re not willing to go above and beyond on some free agents, you’ll never sign anyone, and I sure am glad to see the Yankees make this huge commitment now, to this player, for this team. Is it Opening Day yet?
UPDATE: the deal includes an opt-out after the 2024 season.