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Volume 26 No. 229
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Empire Strikes Back: Yankees Go All-In With Gerrit Cole Signing

Cole's deal is the largest ever for a pitcher, and has the highest annual salary in MLB at $36M per year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Cole's deal is the largest ever for a pitcher, and has the highest annual salary in MLB at $36M per year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Cole's deal is the largest ever for a pitcher, and has the highest annual salary in MLB at $36M per year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Yankees have "raised the stakes for their pursuit of another World Series title" by signing free agent P Gerrit Cole to the "richest contract ever given to a pitcher" -- $324M over nine years, according to James Wagner of the N.Y. TIMES. Cole and the Yankees "shattered the record for the largest contract ever awarded a pitcher, a mark that had been set just a day earlier" when Stephen Strasburg re-signed with the Nationals for seven years and $245M. The Yankees have "generally exercised more discipline with their payroll in recent years" under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. But to "end their World Series drought," the Yankees "recognized the need to add an elite starting pitcher" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown noted Cole now has the "highest average salary" in MLB at $36M per year. Sources said that Cole has an "opt-out clause after his fifth season" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/11). Yankees Senior VP & GM Brian Cashman had "ownership-level approval to offer a record-setting deal." Cashman "executed the move out of the same playbook" he used after the '08 season, when he gave now-former MLBer CC Sabathia a seven-year, $161M deal (ESPN.com, 12/11). On Long Island, Erik Boland cites sources as saying that Steinbrenner "entered the winter determined to keep the 2020 payroll under the third luxury-tax threshold." But those sources said that Steinbrenner in recent weeks became "more and more open to surpassing it for Cole" (NEWSDAY, 12/11).

BACK TO THEIR OLD WAYS: THE ATHLETIC's Marc Carig writes the Yankees signing Cole "feels like a return to the old way of doing business." It is the "kind of financial muscle flexing that harkens back to the glory days" of late former Owner George Steinbrenner. The Yankees are "well-run, well-heeled and well-schooled in the art of reeling in the big fish." The addition of Cole "changes the landscape" of MLB (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/11). SI.com's Matt Martell writes, "Only in name is this the same organization that George Steinbrenner ran for decades, using millions of dollars as bandaids to tend their wounds." In those days, "nothing cured a disappointing season quite like a blank check to an established veteran." Over the last five-plus years, the Yankees have been "much more prudent with their fortune." But, at the "same time, this is still the Evil Empire, a franchise more than capable of extending an overwhelming offer when the time is right" (SI.com, 12/11). In N.Y., George King III writes the Cole signing is the "type of move George Steinbrenner lived for" (N.Y. POST, 12/11). On Long Island, David Lennon writes the "Death Star is indeed fully operational" with the addition of Cole (NEWSDAY, 12/11).

WORLD SERIES OR BUST? YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Oz writes the Yankees "are back." Oz: "Back to free-agent excess. Back to blowing away the rest of the market for free agents. Back to being at the head of baseball's tycoon-class." But that "means one important thing -- no excuses." The Yankees "have to win the World Series" in '20 because "anything less is a failure" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/11). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Yankees are "back to being the Yankees." They "reminded the baseball world of their financial clout" with the Cole deal. The Yankees "haven't eclipsed the luxury tax in two years, but for Cole, they didn't mind spreading their wealth" (USA TODAY, 12/11). THE RINGER's Zach Kram writes under the header, "With Gerrit Cole Signed, The Yankees Are The Yankees Again. Everyone Else: Beware" (THERINGER.com, 12/11). In Newark, Randy Miller notes with their "streak of no championships now a decade long, the Yankees decided it was time to do something drastic" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 12/11).

MAKING HIS PRESENCE FELT: ESPN.com's Bradford Doolittle writes Cole signing "so early despite the slow pace of recent free-agent markets and the general habits of his agent, Scott Boras, is a boon to this winter's market as a whole." Last year, top-level free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado "lingered in the market deep into the winter, which to a certain extent paralyzed the entire process." Now, the Dodgers and Angels "can move quickly to their Plan B's and assuming fellow Boras client Anthony Rendon doesn't get stuck in limbo, we should have less of a freeze this time around" (ESPN.com, 12/11). USA TODAY's Nightengale writes the "accusations of collusion that dominated the landscape the past few years at baseball's annual winter meetings have vanished, with the industry once again showing it is indeed flush with money." Boras said, "A lot of clubs have seen the result of taking an academic approach in a competitive environment. That has resulted in declines in attendance, lack of interest, and unfilled expectations. Therefore, I believe they're returning to a traditional approach where they're going out and supplementing their teams with known veteran talent" (USA TODAY, 12/11). In California, Jim Alexander writes Boras' stamp is "all over" the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Alexander: "Do we need more proof that Boras runs these meetings?" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 12/11).

INJECTING SOME LIFE: In DC, Dave Sheinin writes this offseason has "already been one of the most active and lucrative free agent markets in recent years" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/11). THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal in a roundtable discussion writes this is the '00 Winter Meetings "all over again, an orgy of spending that is electrifying an industry beset by a cheating scandal, labor unrest and a dispute" between MLB and MiLB. The sport is "in a robust financial state" right now (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/11).

WHAT'S PLAN B? SI.com's Tom Verducci writes the Angels "needed Cole even more than the Yankees and Dodgers, but could not offer" him what those teams could: a "ready-made World Series contender." In the end, the Dodgers "were never going to be as desperate with their money as would the Yankees" (SI.com, 12/11). In L.A., Torres & Castillo write Angels Owner Arte Moreno "had the means to offer Cole a historic deal." But the Yankees "do not face an uphill battle to the postseason" like the Angels do (L.A. TIMES, 12/11). In California, Jeff Fletcher notes the Angels have "significant space left before approaching the luxury tax threshold," which will be $208M in '20. Their luxury tax payroll also is currently around $140M (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/11).