10 ripple effects of Cole's deal with Yanks
By Will Leitch | @williamfleitch
December 11, 2019
While you were (possibly) asleep on Tuesday night, the Yankees, in the most Yankees of moves, reportedly landed free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole on a whopping nine-year, $324 million contract. It's the biggest contract to a pitcher and the highest average annual value ($36 million) for any player. It is a massive deal, in both money and potential ramifications. Its effects will be felt immediately and for years to come. Here are 10 ripple effects from the deal, for the Yankees and for the league as a whole.
1. The Yankees have absolute faith in the future of their team.
The Orioles, as a particular example, have two players with guaranteed contracts for 2021: Chris Davis (who presumably will be on the roster when the earth crashes into the sun) and Alex Cobb. That's it. The Marlins have one, Miguel Rojas. The Yankees? They have two players with guaranteed contracts through … '27! Cole is now signed through '28, and Giancarlo Stanton's deal runs through '27, with a $25 million option for '28. Do you realize how far away '27 is? Brad Pitt is going to be 64 in '27. Who knows what the heck the world is going to look like in '27? The Yankees do. They already have two roster spots spoken for.
2. Come 2023, Aaron Judge probably isn't going to be a Yankee.
Speaking of people who are older than you think they are, Judge is going to be 28 in April. He's only a year and a half younger than Cole! But Judge isn't going to be a free agent for three more seasons, which means he'll be hitting the market right before his 31st birthday. Do you think the Yankees, with two guys making more than $30 million on the roster -- not to mention Gleyber Torres, who is five years younger than Judge and just a year behind him in arbitration eligibility -- are going to pony up for a nearly 31-year-old Judge? Or lock him up now and (presumably) devote close to $100 million in a world where the Competitive Balance Tax starts at $208 million? (More on that below.)
Judge was happy with the Cole signing, as any teammate would be, but even the Yankees have some restraints. Cole's signing makes it considerably less likely that Judge will finish his career as a Yankee.
3. The Angels are about to go after Anthony Rendon hard.
You can't blame the Angels too much for not getting Cole, their top target. Only one team could offer that sort of contract to Cole, and it's not the Halos. But now they better make sure they don't get outbid for Rendon. The bidders for Rendon shouldn't include the Yankees now, which means their opponents are more modest: the Rangers, the Nationals and maybe the Braves. The Dodgers are perhaps their biggest competition, but the Angels, with Mike Trout getting antsy and manager Joe Maddon brought in to win now, have every incentive to reel in Rendon. They have money coming off the books, they need a running mate for Trout and they need to turn the ship around after the worst season of the Trout era. If the Halos don't get either of the two big fish, Trout will look lonelier, and more stranded, than ever.
4. Madison Bumgarner might be about to be a Dodger.
If Bumgarner doesn't have any issue with wearing Dodger Blue, then we shouldn't have any, either. Los Angeles was willing to go big to get Cole, but nobody goes as big as the Yankees go big. The Dodgers still need another starter, and Bumgarner is quite the consolation prize. He may cost one-third, or at most half, of what Cole cost. But the real takeaway from L.A. isn't what it might do with Bumgarner. It's …
5. Mookie Betts will likely stay with Boston this year … but look out for those Dodgers next year.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers still have not landed a free agency "white whale" -- as Friedman called Cole -- and when Betts hits the market next year, Los Angeles won't have to compete with the Yankees to get him. It's possible that Rendon is the Dodgers' target this week. But more likely: Betts, who's a more logical fit, is going to get a large swath of the money that had been earmarked for Cole. And as good as L.A. is, its payroll is surprisingly modest (roughly $150 million for 2020) with very few long-term commitments at the moment.
Plus, the Red Sox surely can't trade Betts now, can they? It's one thing to try to get under the Competitive Balance Tax. It's another thing to trade your best player right after your hated rival paid an astronomical sum to the best starting pitcher in the sport.
6. Carlos Correa is probably staying put.
The rumors that surfaced in the past few days about the Astros potentially shopping Correa appear to have been connected to a possible last-minute push to keep Cole. Now that that's not happening -- Cole didn't look like a guy all that eager to stay in Houston, anyway -- there shouldn't be any urgency to unload Correa, who has had injury troubles but still is only 25 and is a player we all thought was going to win an American League Most Valuable Player Award a couple of years ago. The Astros have some free-agency questions to figure out, most namely what they're going to do with George Springer, who is a free agent next year, but they don't have to act on Correa just yet.
7. The Blue Jays and the Orioles don't need to be in any sort of hurry.
Toronto and Baltimore were already going to be taking their time reconstructing their rosters -- the O's in particular. Suffice it to say, the Yankees muscling up shouldn't accelerate their time frame any. If anything, maybe this gives them both some hope? By the time their rosters have matured and they are ready to compete, the Yankees will be paying two guys in their mid-30s more than $60 million. The Yanks will be bloated by then: It'll behoove both those teams (and the Rays, of course, as always) to be as lithe as possible.
8. No one will doubt Scott Boras anytime soon.
Boras might sometimes get a little lost in his extended metaphors, and he has a tendency to only have affinity for advanced statistics that directly benefit him … but those who were claiming last year that Boras' wait-'em-out strategy wasn't working anymore are awfully quiet this morning. He still has Rendon's contract coming, too.
9. The Yankees (and the Nationals, for that matter) may think some changes may be coming in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This was pointed out by baseball writer Joe Sheehan in his newsletter , but it is certainly possible that the Competitive Balance Tax threshold could be raised when the next CBA expires in 2021. That would make it easier for the Yankees (and the Nationals, after signing Stephen Strasburg) to take the hit of Cole's contract in a few years than it is now. As Sheehan notes, "We're close enough to the new CBA that teams have to make decisions based not just on the rules as they are, but the rules as they might be in two years." Rest assured that the Yankees had this in mind.
10. The Yankees do not handle missing the World Series for a whole decade well.
To say the least. The Yankees are making certain that the 2020s don't end without a World Series the way the '10s did. When the Yanks go big, they go very big.