The New York Yankees landed the biggest prize of the free-agent market, adding Gerrit Cole to their rotation with a record $324 million US contract over nine years on Tuesday night, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced.
Cole’s deal established marks for pitchers in total dollars, topping the seven-year, $245-million contract Stephen Strasburg finalized a day earlier to remain with the World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Its $36 million average is a record for any player, beating the $35.5 million in outfielder Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels that started last season.
Agent Scott Boras negotiated the deals for Cole and Strasburg.
Originally drafted by Yankees
A 29-year-old right-hander, Cole was baseball’s most dominant pitcher for much of 2019 and helped the Houston Astros come within one win of their second World Series title in three seasons.
New York has not won the World Series since 2009 and sought an ace to head a rotation that already includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ or Domingo German, who may be suspended at the season’s start under baseball’s domestic violence policy.
General manager Brian Cashman executed the move out of his same playbook he used after the 2008 season, when he gave CC Sabathia a seven-year deal worth $161 million to lead a staff and establish a clubhouse presence.
Cole will complement a young core of hitters that includes Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez, entering a window when New York thinks it can compete consistently for championships.
Cole was drafted by the Yankees in the first round with the 28th overall pick out of high school in 2008 but chose to go to UCLA, then was drafted first overall by Pittsburgh three years later. Traded after the 2017 season, he transformed his career in two seasons with the Astros.
Blossomed in Houston
After going 59-42 with a 3.50 earned-run average in five seasons with the Pirates, he blossomed under the analytics-focused staff of the Astros. He increased the usage of his four-seam fastball and curveball, virtually dropping his two-seam sinker while attacking the top of the strike zone more often.
Cashman visited Cole and wife Amy in California last week, bringing along Boone, new pitching coach Matt Blake and special adviser Andy Pettitte.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we educate the player and his family about our culture, everything, what we are,” Cashman said.
Cashman said he realized the risk of a lengthy, marketplace-driven free-agent contract but pointed to deals that worked, such as Derek Jeter’s $189 million contract that covered 2001-10, pitcher Mike Mussina’s $88.5 million agreement from 2001-06 and Sabathia’s big deal.
“There’s been examples where we’ve done long long-term deals and it’s backfired and hasn’t paid off,” he said. “We’ve done long-term deals where we had benefits.”
In other moves Tuesday:
- Shortstop Didi Gregorius is joining manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia, agreeing with the Phillies on a one-year contract worth $14 million US, a person familiar with the deal told the AP.
- San Francisco acquired infielder Zack Cozart and infield prospect Will Wilson from the Angels for a player to be named or cash, taking on Cozart’s salary of nearly $12.7 million next year.
- Right-hander Kevin Gausman agreed to a one-year contract worth $9 million with the Giants, eight days after Cincinnati allowed him to become a free agent.
- Outfielder Adam Jones and the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League agreed to a two-year, $8-million contract.
- Minnesota Twins finalized a two-year contract worth $20 million with suspended pitcher Michael Pineda and a one-year deal ($4.25 million) with catcher Alex Avila.
- Washington retained two more players from its championship team, finalizing a two-year, $10-million contract with catcher Yan Gomes and a one-year contract ($6.25 million) with infielder Howie Kendrick.
- The Chicago White Sox acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara from Texas for minor league outfielder Steele Walker.