Yankees Sign Gerrit Cole; Designate Chance Adams

December 18: Gerrit Cole is officially a New York Yankee. The Yankees announced Cole’s contract, while also desginating right-handed pitcher Chance Adams for assignment to clear a roster spot.

Reporting from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic revealed an intriguing detail about Cole’s contract: the Yankees can void his fifth year opt out by guaranteeing him a 10th year at $36 million.

Adams is a pitching prospect who simply ran out of chances to redeem himself after a career year in 2017. His Triple-A stats were stellar: a 2.45 ERA across 150⅓ innings between Double-A and Triple-A at age-22 put high expectations on the right-hander.

However, the following seasons were not a strong. Adams made his major-league debut in 2018, but has a 8.18 ERA in 33 big-league innings since 2018.

December 11: Stephen Strasburg‘s reign as the highest paid pitcher in baseball was short. Brian Cashman got his man — Gerrit Cole will finally be a New York Yankee.

MLB Network‘s Jon Heyman broke the news late Tuesday that the Bronx Bombers signed the 29-year-old right-hander to an unprecedented nine-year, $324 million contract. He will receive a full no-trade clause and be able to opt out after the deal’s fifth year. The deal is pending a physical and the club has not confirmed at this point.

The fit for Cole within the Yankees rotation is obvious, given that Cole checked in atop the FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement leaderboard for pitchers with a whopping +7.4. In 33 starts for Houston, he finished with a 20-5 record, 2.50 ERA (2.64 FIP) and an astronomical 13.82 strikeouts per nine innings. Cole clocked in with a 97th percentile fastball velocity (97.1 mph) and 96th percentile spin rate (2530 rpm). In 2019, Cole relied on 5 pitches: four-seam fastball (51.6%), slider (23.1%), curveball (15.5%), changeup (7.4%) and sinker (2.4%).

Cole’s contract shatters the record both for a total guarantee and annual value for a pitcher. Coming into this offseason, the goal to beat was David Price – who signed for seven years and $217 million with the Boston Red Sox just before the 2016 season. The aforementioned Strasburg then signed for seven years and $245 million on the heels of a World Series MVP performance.

That set the bar fairly high for a New York Yankees club that had been reluctant to spend massive amounts of money on free agents in recent years. The team’s last large guarantee to a starting pitcher came in 2014 when they gave Masahiro Tanaka seven years and $155 million.

But the pursuit of Cole proved to be something out of the old-school Yankees playbook. A contingent of general manager Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake and former Yankees legend Andy Pettitte ventured west to meet with Cole in California a few days before the Winter Meetings.

Cole’s California upbringing was long rumored to be one of the most significant obstacles preventing him from donning the pinstripes. That led to the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers becoming presumptive favorites in the free agent pursuit. But the Angels would not go up to $300 million and the Dodgers offer was structured with deferred money. This led to the obvious choice of Cole joining the New York Yankees.

The domino effect for Cole’s signing will affect the rest of the Yankees offseason. They have already allowed Didi Gregorius to sign with Philadelphia, and appear to be moving on from Dellin Betances and Austin Romine. Rumors have also emerged that they are aggressively shopping lefty J.A. Happ to clear salary and the fifth rotation spot.

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