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What Gerrit Cole to the Astros (or any other team) means for the Yankees

For about an hour on Wednesday afternoon we all thought Gerrit Cole was heading to the Houston Astros.

Then, he wasn’t.

This hour window pretty much sums up how the MLB winter has gone.

For now, let’s assume Cole does get moved but not to New York. What does that mean for the Yankees?

If Houston acquires Cole, it obviously makes the defending World Series champs that much better. Houston was already going to be the biggest obstacle standing in between the Yankees and the 2018 World Series, and adding Cole, a pitcher with “No. 1 potential,” to their rotation that already features Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers is filthy. So although I don’t think the Yankees need Cole (more on that in a second) I certainly don’t want the Astros to land him.

The Yankees have been the leading team “in” on Cole all winter. Back in December there were reports that the Yankees were organizing a prospect package centered around Clint Frazier to acquire Cole, but Pittsburgh was insistent on Gleyber Torres. Thankfully, Brian Cashman said no to that.

Adding Cole to the Yankees rotation obviously makes them better, but at what cost? We all agree Torres is too much, but trading Frazier plus young talent like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar would hurt as well. If Cole is dealt elsewhere, I’ll be glad Cashman didn’t overpay for him because the Yankees don’t need him — at least not right now.

This isn’t 2008 when the Yankees were contemplating dealing their top prospects (headlined by Phil Hughes) for Johan Santana. That year, the best Yankees starter was a 39-year old Mike Mussina. They were desperate for front-end pitching. Now, their rotation is led by a 24-year old Luis Severino coming off a breakout season.

The staff isn’t too shabby behind Severino either. Last year the Yankees ranked second in team pitching WAR behind only Cleveland, and their entire 5-man rotation is returning. Masahiro Tanaka should have a better overall season than ’17, in which he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball through May. The Yanks will also enjoy a full season of Sonny Gray, who, like Cole, has No. 1 potential. Jordan Montgomery had the the best rookie season for a Yankee starter since Andy Pettitte’s 1996, and I for one am most intrigued to watch how he develops. Adding Cole to the 2018 roster probably means Monty is traded, or at least knocked out of the rotation to start the year. Finally, CC Sabathia, who does have serious injury concerns, is returning as the No. 5 starter. Should CC go down for extended time, the Yankees have young depth pieces that can fill in temporarily.

My point is that the Yankees do not need to overpay for Cole right now. The notion that all 5 starters make it through an entire season without injury is preposterous, and assuming they will all repeat or improve upon their 2017 performance is foolish. But should the Yankees need pitching in June or July, Brian Cashman can trade from his prospect pool then. There is no need to do it now.

Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Rotondi

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