To Keep or Not to Keep: Gerrit Cole
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll begin this series with discussing Gerrit Cole.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Gerrit Cole Background:
Going into the 2020 season, the Yankees inked their former 1st round draftee and Brian Cashman’s personal “white whale” Gerrit Cole to a 9-Year/$324 Million ($36M AAV) contract that would keep him with the Yankees through the 2028 season. In this contract, Cole has full no-trade protection and he has an opt-out available to him after the 2024 season, though the Yankees can void that decision by adding a 10th year (2029) at the same AAV. And, even with the Yankees recent bad luck with bringing in starting pitching, Gerrit Cole has been amazing.
In the past two years, Gerrit Cole has pitched to a combined: 14-6 Record (.700 WP; 25 Starts), 154.2 Innings, 2.56 ERA (163 ERA+; 2.95 FIP), 0.912 WHIP, 207 Strikeouts (12.0 K/9), 28 Walks (1.6 BB/9). Needless to say, Gerrit Cole has been producing the way the Yankees have needed, including having all these numbers improved during the 2021 season so far. He finished 4th in the AL Cy Young voting last year, and is a consensus front-runner for the AL Cy Young so far in 2021. He is the Yankees starting pitching.
However, there are some concerns with Gerrit Cole going forward. He’s been the face of the current “sticky stuff” problem within the MLB and has seen his spin rate drop over his last two starts after the MLB has started a crackdown mid-season. Given his large improvements to his career while with the Houston Astros- where he is believed to have started using foreign substances to improve his pitches and spin rate- this is a thing to follow with Cole if he’ll be prevented from using substances while pitching. Since the crackdown his last two starts having strayed far from “normal” with two shorter appearances and more runs allowed than usual, so this will continue to be something to watch going forward.
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
There’s a reason that we’re starting this series with Gerrit Cole, as my opinions are going to align with that of what I believe the New York Yankees will do: keep him. That’s an obvious given and something that no Yankees fan could disagree with. So instead of going on about Gerrit Cole specifically, I’ll take this time to elaborate on what this section will bring.
I am a realist within baseball and I call things as I see them, though I am not going to imagine the future of what I would do with the Yankees with reckless abandon. Instead, I am going to highlight moves that I believe would be of the best interest to the Yankees, especially given the past few years of seeing and understanding how the front office makes moves. I’m not going to try and create trades, though I will offer what players should be traded. I’m going to understand what the Yankees truly care about (i.e. the luxury tax threshold) and use these to formulate my decision making. Though, I don’t imagine that the Yankees and I will agree on what best sets this team up for the future.
Gerrit Cole presents an easy answer with keeping him. I’m personally not concerned with the “sticky stuff” situation going around the MLB and would hope that a pitcher like Gerrit Cole can overcome this change if it becomes completely banned. (Personally, I believe the MLBPA and MLB will come to a consensus on a designed substance for pitchers to use in the offseason.) Add on top of this Cole being the entirety of the Yankees starting pitching staff, his massive contract that very few teams would be willing to absorb, and the astronomical price he would command if available for trade (of which he would likely reject anyway), and it becomes clear that Cole will be, and should be, a Yankee for many years to come. For now, what I would do and what I believe the Yankees will do are aligned.