Cole Contract Could Be A Yankees Risk

By Rich Mancuso/ Sports Editor

Go back to October and the Yankees failures with their at bats were the major and contributing factors coming up short again to the Houston Astros. It was not Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton, J.A Happ.

And it wasn’t the open bullpen and Chad Green that failed. The culprit this time, and failure to reach a World Series for the first time in a decade was their inability to have that dominant pitcher.

They got  Gerrit Cole, their target. 

 But, Cole does not hit the ball. He throws strikes and a majority of his outs come with the strikeout. That could get the Yankees their first World Series championship since 2009.

And of course, the Yankees had the resources to pay Cole, nine-years, $324 million, a record contract. The Yankees always seem to get what they want but this was different in many respects.

They upped their offer to obtain the prize free agent on the market. Could have been the Dodgers or the supposed front running Angels, but the Yankees had the resources to do this.

And  the magnitude of this contract is not what the Yankees have been accustomed for via free agency and acquiring a pitcher they feel will get them to the top.  They haven’t been in this market since Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. and it shows their desperation to win it all and for a long time.

A long time with Cole, before his opt of five years, but it does come with a risk.

You see, long term contracts of this magnitude can backfire for a position player, and more so with a quality and durable arm that is Gerrit Cole.

So if this fails, then we are talking about another bust of a contract, The Yankees now have two of the $300 million and record contracts, the other Giancarlo Stanton and that has proved to be a failure.  

There are no expectations that the 2019 season of Cole, with a Major League leading 326 strikeouts, league leading 2.50 ERA in 33 starts, 20-5, and runner up for AL Cy Young Award will duplicate that in 2020. 

He could still be that dominating pitcher, 35-10 and that 2.68 ERA in 65 starts for the Astros that was seen the past two seasons.Cole can still be the ace of a Yankees pitching staff that will deliver their long awaited World Series title and first of the new decade.

But, the 29-year old  Cole needs to stay healthy as that innings eater. It is a risk the Yankees took. However, Cole has mastered his curveball and his four-seamer over the two-seam fastball made him that dominant ace.

Said a longtime AL scout, who has seen Cole often, “That change brought him to this level. Keeps it low in zone and that’s what gives him so many ground balls.”

Ground balls from Cole will be important at his new ballpark in the Bronx.

And the Yankees now have flexibility to do more. GM Brian Cashman will look into the contracts of Tanaka, Paxton, and Haap, all up for free agency after the 2020 season.

All of those interesting elements come into play for the Yankees. But in the end, as much as pitching and defense win ball games, as the Yankees have, that potent lineup needs to hit in timley situations.

Their 2019 postseason was a failure at the plate and that was the difference.

So throw away the theories of collusion from the owners. Zack Wheeler, in the $100 million plus range, Stephen Strasburg (Nationals $245 million) and now Gerrit Cole.

The big three on the pitching market are off the table. But the Yankees got what they wanted. They have changed direction and salary thresholds to them, and staying away from the long term and lucrative contract are no longer a part of their policy.

Cole, as manager Aaron Boone said, “is a lot of ways, that’s a game-changing type of talent.”

The Yankees got their game changer, but at what risk? If Gerrit Cole helps to deliver one or more World Series titles then this will not be a risk.

The Yankees got their investment with Sabathia and a World Series championship and years before his knees got worse. Though this could always be that enormous risk of a contract.

Comment: Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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