With the record-shattering contract of Gerrit Cole, the New York Yankees have signaled their intent to go back in time and become the new evil empire. Wherever he is George Steinbrenner will be smiling today. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Yankees were wrong to load all of this cash into the pockets of Gerrit Cole.
Yankees philosophy is money makes the world go around
The Yankees have never been shy about spending money. Joe Torre’s evil empire of the 1990’s were always the most expensive bunch of players money could assemble. The addition of Alex Rodriquez and his, at the time, monster contract was the epitome of the spend big times.
Things had become a little more circumspect for the Yankees this century, with them still near the top of the payrolls, but not always at the pinnacle. This has led to just two world-series appearances in the last 20 years, and just one win.
Currently sitting $38,804,214 above the tax threshold (according to spotrac), the Yankees are on the cusp of crossing into the higher level of tax penalties. It will likely require some jiggering of their current roster. Players like JA Happ will almost certainly be shipped in order to free some space and allow them to fill out the roster.
But is Cole worth it?
The truth is that despite how much everyone hates the Yankees, and wants to say they just outbid everyone else; Gerrit Cole was worth every cent. In theory. He is arguably the best pitcher in baseball and was certainly the best to hit the open market this season.
He said he wanted to go to a team that would compete. With Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, Tanaka, Chapman, and Torres on the roster there is no question this team competes for the World Series. As they did last year.
Add in Cole’s 2.50 ERA, 0.895 WHIP, and 13.8 K/9 and you have a team that is literally built to break records. They won 103 games in 2019, second-best in the AL, and third-best overall. Not to mention that you have subtracted Gerrit Cole from last seasons winningest team.
Despite that, their starters ranked only 15th in team ERA with a 4.51 ERA and posting 103 wins, and 39 losses. So if this team had a weakness it was there pitching.
However, the issue with this contract is the length. At 9-years, Cole will be 38 when it expires. With the workload he will face, he won’t be the same pitcher in 2028. He has a full no-trade clause and has a player opt-out after the fifth season.
We can already see some of the aging process in Gerrit Cole’s work, with his fastball% at just 54.0% in 2019, having declined in each season since 2015. However, this likely bodes well for his ageing as he is less reliant on the fastball, so a loss of velocity will affect him a little less.
That said, long contracts rarely age well, with the buyer usually looking to offload their expensive toy within 5 or 6 years. Just this offseason there have been reports of the Red Sox trying to trade previous record-contract pitcher David Price only four years after he signed it.
However, in the 3-5 year span, this is one of the best signings the Yankees could’ve made. They did their homework, and they targetted the player they wanted. Did they overpay in terms of length? Probably. But sometimes you have to do that to get the best players.