I guess it ultimately didn’t matter that they weren’t able to shed salary. The Yankees just went ahead and signed Gerrit Cole to a record-setting nine-year deal worth $324 million.
His deal eclipses the one Stephen Strasburg signed the other day and predictably dwarfs the mammoth free-agent deals handed out to David Price and Max Scherzer a few years ago. This deal comes 11 years after the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to what at the time was a record-setting deal for a pitcher. It was worth $161 million. Oh, how times change!
Anyways, here he is as a Yankee…
FIRST LOOK: Gerrit Cole has (reportedly) donned the @yankees pinstripes.
And shaved his beard.
And cut his hair, too.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) December 11, 2019
This is actually the first huge free agent add the Yankees have had in a little while. I mentioned in my rant post yesterday that the Evil Empire was being uncharacteristically stingy in recent years, but it seems this kind of addition was the one they were waiting to make. We all assumed they would sign one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado last winter, instead, they waited until this year to solidify their problematic rotation with an ace.
Rather than blowing their load on Jacoby Ellsbury-esque signings just for the hell of filling the stomachs of a rabid fan market with empty calories, the Yankees are being meticulous with the way they swing their dick around on the open market. Over at The Athletic, Marc Carig points out exactly why the new, big-picture-thinking, less-reckless Yankees are terrifying…
At first glance, the Yankees’ signing of Gerrit Cole to a record nine-year, $324 million contract feels like a return to the old way of doing business. Indeed, it is the kind of financial muscle flexing that harkens back to the glory days of George Steinbrenner.
But the reality for the rest of baseball is far more grim, for the signing of Cole isn’t a blast from the past, but an embodiment of the game’s worst fears. The Yankees are well-run, well-heeled and well-schooled in the art of reeling in the big fish. And as a result, the best pitcher in the game joins a team that will be favored to win the World Series.
It happened not because of impulse or short-sighted thinking, but because a calculated process rooted in data led the Yankees to a clear conclusion.
Smart teams still pay the price for elite talent. The Yankees dared to make it rain when the time was right. The death star is fully operational, and now the rest of baseball is left to face the consequences.
Ah, yes, very good. Great, actually!
So, now that Strasburg and Cole are off the free-agent market, what happens next? The Dodgers and Angels, two big-market teams who had been pushing hard to sign an elite arm, missed out on the top targets, and they’ll pivot their efforts elsewhere. This leaves the Jays competing with both L.A. teams, along with other teams like Minnesota, for the remaining pitchers out there.
Mark Shapiro, at the very least, is aware that the Jays need to do something. With the two big fish scooped up and the other quality options soon to disappear as the dust settles, the Jays need to be aggressive. No, not pretend aggressive, which has been the front office’s word de jour of the off-season, but actually aggressive. Aggressive as in they’re outbidding other teams. If not, they’re going to get left behind.
“We need to get better. We need to add. We need to strike,” Shapiro said Tuesday. “There are different degrees, some may not be how you define that or someone else defines that, but we clearly need to add. We can’t just roll the same club out again as it sits there today.
But do the Jays actually want to go ahead and do that? I mean, Shapiro outright said that the team needs to be better than it was last season, and he knows they need to make additions in order for it to happen. Are they actually ready to cash in on the financial flexibility they’ve created?
“We’re very well positioned,” he added. “The combination of young talent along with the lack of future commitments, it will never be this again. It’s just for this moment.”
“There are still some variables, there are still some situations that would lead to a payroll being bigger and there are some variables that if we don’t feel the right moves are out there that would lead to the payroll being lower. We’re not going to spend it just to spend it, but there’s certainly opportunity to go beyond last year in the right circumstance, as well. It’s not a static number.”
Given the comment about them never being as flexible as they are right now, it would be shocking if the Jays didn’t make a couple of serious additions this off-season. Bo and Vlad aren’t going to be dirt cheap forever. You have 2020, 2021, and 2022 of those guys being cheap, and then, Vlad becomes eligible for arbitration. Bo will be right behind him. There’s a nice window of opportunity right now to capitalize on their low salaries.
A perfect example can be found in how the Cubs built their World Series team. Chicago finished last in the National League Central in 2014 after going 73-89. Despite the record, the Cubs were optimistic about their group of young position players, which included Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs had plenty of hitting but lacked pitching. They could have sat back another year and waited for the core to continue its development, but instead Chicago president Theo Epstein went out and signed Jon Lester to a six-year contract while also adding Jason Hammel, Jason Motte and Miguel Montero to the roster.
Chicago went on to win 97 games the following year before losing in the NL Championship Series. The Cubs upgraded again that winter by signing Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jason Heyward, among others. The additions upped Chicago’s win total to 103 and resulted in the organization’s first World Series title since 1908.
I don’t think anybody realistically expected the Jays to go out and sign Cole or Strasburg. But missing out on a higher-end name like Ryu or Keuchel would be incredibly disappointing. There’s still plenty of time and a handful of solid names out there on the market, but things are going to start picking up now. Let’s hope the front office is finally ready to make something happen.
Also, speaking of Bo and Vlad’s cheap salaries, Shapiro mentioned that there has been some internal dialogue about the possibility of handing out early long-term extensions to the team’s young stars. We’ve seen this quite a bit recently, with Atlanta locking up Ronald Acuna after one season of play and the White Sox signing Eloy Jimenez before he even reached the Major Leagues. It’ll be something we’ll likely hear more about come spring training.
“A lot of conversations internally about all of our zero-to-three players, but as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, we tend to use spring training as the timing to actually conduct those conversations just because we’ve got a limited number of hours and a lot of work to get done in the off-season so right now we’re focused on the more pressing business, which is trying to add players to this core,” Shapiro said.