The New York Yankees made it well-known that they were not going to be outbid for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and last night, they brought the Brinks truck, striking a nine-year, $324 million deal with the 29-year-old.
For the first time since the 1910s, the Yankees failed to make a single World Series appearance in a decade, but not for a lack of trying. They have made it to the ALCS twice in the last three seasons, falling to the Astros both times. Both teams were loaded with talent, but the Astros key advantage was having a stronger starting rotation.
Now that the Yankees have plucked Cole, who finished second behind former teammate Justin Verlander for the American League Cy Young Award, away from Houston, they have tipped the scales in their favor. Houston’s rotation currently consists of Verlander, who, despite winning the Cy Young Award last season, comes with question marks due to his age (he turns 37 in February) and usage (he will eclipse 3,000 innings pitched early in 2020), Zack Greinke, another stalwart in the rotation, but is also 36 years old, Lance McCullers, who missed all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, Jose Urquidy, who is known for his World Series heroics, but is a bit of an X-factor and an undetermined fifth starter which could be Framber Valdez (5.86 ERA last season), Rogelio Armenteros (18 career innings pitched) Francis Martes (5.80 ERA last season), though all of them could just be keeping the seat warm until the Astros top prospect, Forrest Whitley, is ready to make his major league debut.
New York’s rotation is expected to be anchored by Cole followed by James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino and Domingo German. The Yankees rotation has the advantage of youth over Houston and they all boast extensive postseason experience. Paxton punched out 11.1 batters per nine innings last season, Tanaka has a career WHIP of 1.128, Severino, who missed most of last season with a lat strain, finished third in the Cy Young voting just two seasons ago and German went 18-4 last season on the strength of his 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Yankees also have one of baseball’s most dominant bullpens, even with the potential loss of Dellin Betances to free agency. Hard throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman saved 37 games last season, his most in a season since 2013 with Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino all strong setup options. New York doesn’t need to rely on their starters going seven innings each night when they have so much depth in the bullpen.
On offense, not much is missing from the team that led the league in scoring. Didi Gregorious is gone, but was deemed repaceable follwing the rise of D.J. LeMahieu, who should have been a finalist for the AL MV last season. Gio Urshela showed he is more than capable of replacing Miguel Andujar, who missed most of last season following a tear in his shoulder. Andujar and outfielder Clint Frazier could be used a trade pieces if the Yankees look to add another star player.
New York was already an intimidating team who could go toe-to-toe with the league’s best, but now with Cole in the fold (and handsomely paid) they are back to looking like the Steinbrenner era team thhat paid the price to win at all costs.