The start of spring training is an exciting time for baseball fans because there is plenty of optimism and hope for the upcoming season. This is especially true for me as a Yankees fan. After a strong 2019 season in which the Yankees finished first in the American League East with 103 wins, the team is coming back stronger this year with the notable addition of pitcher Gerrit Cole. Cole was the prize free agent of the off-season, and the Yankees secured him with a record-breaking nine-year $364 million contract. In the 2019 season, Cole pitched to a 2.50 ERA with a 20-5 record, coming in second for the American League Cy Young — the league’s award for the best pitcher. At 29 years old, Cole is in his prime and figures to be the Yankees’ ace for the foreseeable future.
This new addition excites because it seems to fulfill the Yankees’ final need to win a World Series: an elite, consistent starting pitcher. The Yankees enter the 2020 season as favorites to win the World Series. Having not won a championship since 2009, the Yankees’ World Series drought is certainly significant and due to come to an end.
The Yankees have always been known as a team that doesn’t hesitate to spend millions in free agency. They’re one of the wealthiest franchises in the sport and that has undeniably been a factor of their success. However, in the past several years, the Yankees have strayed away from this trend and developed the team through smart trades and the training of their own young players that they drafted. This has been a successful system and the Yankees have had strong playoff runs for the past few seasons. It hasn’t been enough, though. That was the feeling going into the off-season. The Yankees were a very good team, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully Gerrit Cole can put them over the top.
In the past two decades, the Yankees haven’t had the best success with marquee free agent signings. The signing of Alex Rodriguez in 2007 for ten-years $275 million is a key example that long-term expensive commitments aren’t always wise. While A-Rod helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, he was also embroiled in performance enhancing drug scandals and was ineffective in the latter part of his contract. That’s a lot of money for only one World Series and plenty of drama off the field. Another free agent signing that was a complete bust was taking on Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years at $153 million dollars. Ellsbury played for three seasons from 2014 to 2017, and then a litany of injuries prevented him from taking the field. The Yankees released Ellsbury in November 2019. This goes to show that paying really good players hundreds of millions of dollars does not always work out. There are variables that cannot be foreseen in these types of investments.
The Yankees are hoping the Gerrit Cole deal is fruitful for the next nine years, and that’s a little worrisome for fans like myself. On one hand, we want to win; we want to beat the Red Sox with ease; we want to add to our twenty-seven World Series titles. On the other hand, we don’t want to see our team be financially strapped and uncompetitive for a large (or any) chunk of these next nine years. I suppose it’s a little unreasonable to expect pure domination for such a long stretch of time. In order to sign Gerrit Cole, the Yankees had to offer something other teams in the league were unwilling or unable to offer. Despite doubts and anxieties, it is with great excitement that I await Cole’s debut this coming season.