SAN DIEGO — As the Manchester Grand Hyatt’s lobby started to fill with the baseball world on Sunday, a report surfaced the Yankees had made a contract offer to Gerrit Cole.
According to a person in the know, the report of a seven-year deal for $245 million by the Yankees to the most attractive free agent was not true.
The industry belief is the Yankees will make a very competitive offer to Cole, this after a contingent led by GM Brian Cashman flew last week from New York to Orange County, Calif. to meet with the ace.
Then it will be up to the 29-year-old right-hander from Newport Beach if he wants to pitch in The Bronx, or stay closer to home and work for the Dodgers or the Angels. The Angels play close to Newport Beach but aren’t thought to be as ready to win as the Dodgers and Yankees.
The Phillies and Rangers have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Cole, but they have to be viewed as long shots.
There has been speculation the process could move quickly, but Cole, and fellow free agent right-hander Stephen Strasberg, are represented by Scott Boras, who plays the long game often and well.
No matter if the deal gets done Monday or in January, Cole will surpass David Price’s $217 million deal for seven years with the Red Sox, signed before the 2016 season, as the richest pitching contract in MLB history. Cole’s timing couldn’t have been better based on his age (29), durability (98 starts in the last three years) and past two seasons in Houston where he went 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA, worked 412 2/3 innings and struck out 602 with a fastball in the high 90s and a filthy slider.
As far back as spring training, the Yankees understood they lacked a true ace to anchor the rotation. James Paxton eventually pitched like a No. 1 starter but he isn’t in Cole’s class. And Cashman hasn’t been shy about upgrading his rotation that houses Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, eventually Domingo German and Paxton.
Even surpassing the third luxury tax penalty level by going over the $248 million mark for 2020 doesn’t appear to be a big deterrent to the Yankees, who would have to deal with draft pick compensation by signing Cole, who refused the $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Astros.
The question is how high will the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels go?
The Yankees have the money, the lineup and the bullpen to compete for their first World Series title since 2009. The Dodgers got to the World Series in 2017 and 2018 but didn’t win it. They, too, have the money and talent. Historically, the Angels have shown they have the dollars and willingness to spend them, but even with Cole they wouldn’t be able to match rosters with the Yankees or Dodgers.
Cole signing with the Yankees would finally end the saga between the pitcher and team. The Yankees took him in the first round of the 2008 draft, but Cole instead went to UCLA. Three years later, the Pirates used the first pick in the draft to take Cole. Following the 2017 season, the Pirates traded Cole to the Astros instead of the Yankees because the Bucs viewed Houston’s package more appealing than the Yankees’.
Now, Cole has become the centerpiece of the Winter Meetings with his name on the lips of people asking the most popular question in the baseball universe: “What do you hear on Cole?”