Opinion: Evil Empire is back: Yankees, with Gerrit Cole, are team to beat
SAN DIEGO — The Evil Empire is back.
The New York Yankees are back to being the Yankees.
The Yankees reminded the baseball world of their financial clout late Tuesday night, reaching an agreement with AL Cy Young runner-up Gerrit Cole on a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract, according to a baseball official with direct knowledge of the agreement.
The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the deal has not yet been finalized.
“We wanted him, we made no secret of that,” one high-ranking Yankees executive told USA TODAY Sports. “And usually when we want a guy, we get him.”
It only took 11 years — after he went to UCLA despite being drafted out of high school by the Yankees in 2008.
They tried to trade for him in January 2018, when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates, only for Cole to instead be traded to the Houston Astros. He helped knock off the Yankees in this year’s American League Championship Series.
Now, with nothing standing in their way but money, the Yankees blew away the field to ensure that he’d be in pinstripes.
The next-closest offer was about $298 million, according to a baseball official, from the Los Angeles Angels.
Hey, it’s only money right?
Why not pay $1 million for each of Cole’s 326 strikeouts last year.
The Yankees haven’t eclipsed the luxury tax in two years, but for Cole, they didn’t mind spreading their wealth.
The Yankees, who just ended their first decade in a century in which they didn’t make the World Series, simply were tired of being beaten by aces.
Over the past few postseasons, they’ve lost to Dallas Keuchel (in 2015 and 2017), Justin Verlander (two times in 2017), Charlie Morton (2017), Chris Sale (2018) and Cole (2019).
Now, they got their own ace, a pitcher who, including in the postseason, went 24-6 with a 2.39 ERA and 373 strikeouts last season.
They sweet-talked Cole in a trip last week to his home in Newport Beach, California, with general manager Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone, assistant GM Michael Fishman, pitching coach Matt Blake and five-time World Series champion Andy Pettitte in attendance.
They told him that they are just as analytically savvy as the Astros, and Pettitte told him about the prestige of pitching in New York, with the chance of a World Series every year.
They also reminded him of that 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was pictured in the newspaper as an 11-year-old, holding a sign: “Yankee Fan Today Tomorrow Forever.”
And, of course, they sealed the deal with a virtual blank check, with no money deferred, a full no-trade clause, and even an opt-out after five years, according to the baseball official.
Just like that, the Yankees are the team to beat — with a rotation of Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, a powerful bullpen and a formidable lineup.
The Yankees, who haven’t signed a marquee free-agent starter since CC Sabathia in 2008, are back to being the Yankees.