Have the Yankees been naughty? Perhaps. But I will gladly take all the Cole that can fit in my stocking.
If you haven’t heard, the Yankees agreed to a record nine-year, $324 million contract with the right-hander. Most people (read non-Yankees fans) will view it as an overpay. But let me tell you why it’s not.
Cole is the complete package. He’s durable and intelligent. He embraces analytics. He’s ahead of the curve. This gives the Yankees more hope that he will age gracefully. Take a look at MLB.com’s ERA projections for Cole over the next seven seasons:
Similar past contracts
Take a look at Max Scherzer and his contract. In January 2015, he got a seven-year, $210 million deal. He was heading into his age-31 season. Deferrals aside, would anyone say that contract hasn’t been worth it? I view Cole in the same light: someone who takes his craft very seriously, is an absolute bulldog on the mound, and has the knowledge on how to get hitters out no matter what. Plus, he’s younger than Scherzer was. We saw this in Game 3 of the ALCS this past season – Cole by no means had his A-grade stuff, walking five batters. But he still ended up throwing seven shutout innings allowing just four hits! That’s the pitcher we’re getting.
The man has had no major injuries and has relatively low mileage on his arm with 1,195.0 regular season innings pitched in his career. Now, will he be worth $36 million a year when he’s 35, 36, 37 years old? Maybe not.
But let’s look at someone else’s deal, someone a little more closely related to the Yankees fan base. CC Sabathia was the almost the same age (he was 28, Cole is 29) when he signed his deal back in 2008. Going back to innings pitched when they were signed: CC had thrown 1,659.1 regular season innings, almost 500 more than Cole. Now I know CC also has many intangibles – he’s a great team guy and has a great personality. But who’s to say Cole can’t become that. Everyone says he’s a great leader. And how many people would say that CC’s deal wasn’t worth it even though he only won one championship (in his first year nonetheless) and deteriorated for a few years towards the end of his initial contract? Not too many.
So how will we view Cole and his contract is he wins us a ring in 2020 but that’s it? Of course, we would want more, but Cole can cement his legacy in the Bronx.
You’re also taking away the best pitcher in baseball from your main competition: the Astros. How much is that worth? While no one ever really expected Cole to return to Houston, the magnitude of this signing is essentially doubled. At the moment, the Yankees have to be considered the favorites in the American League (if not all of the majors) in 2020.
I wrote a few weeks back about how the Yankees needed to be bold and go for the dagger by signing Cole. He was the one they needed to invest in – not Manny Machado, not Bryce Harper. This is the move we needed to put us over the top, and it has finally come to fruition.
The Yankees are a very smart organization. You better believe they looked into how Cole will age and their plan of attack to retain players such as Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres down the line. While it is a large sum of money, the Yankees can absolutely afford this and was a necessary move that will pay dividends.