By Bob Nightengale |
The New York Yankees are betting the biggest contract for a pitcher in baseball history that Gerrit Cole is the man to break their 11-season championship drought.
The Yankees and Cole reached an agreement late Tuesday night on a 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.
Cole, 29, and super agent Scott Boras can now lay claim to every high-water mark for a pitcher.
Longest term: Nine years.
Most guaranteed money: $324 million, or nearly seven figures for all the 326 batters Cole struck out for the Houston Astros in 2019.
And as for average annual value? That would be $36 million, or $1 million more than Boras client Stephen Strasburg will receive in his seven-year, $245 million pact signed Tuesday.
The Yankees, meanwhile, landed their white whale. They drafted Cole in the first round out of high school in 2008, only to see him attend UCLA. They exercised relative austerity in recent years to wriggle under the competitive balance tax – only to see the likes of James Paxton and J.A. Happ fail to carry them back to the World Series.
So they went big – and now are counting on Cole to carry them to their first World Series since 2009.
It was not an easy sign. And the Cole saga gripped baseball’s winter meetings that are taking place less than two hours from Cole’s Newport Beach home.
The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers came hard at Cole as well, the Angels, according to a baseball official, tendering an offer just short of $300 million.
New Angels manager Joe Maddon insisted that owner Arte Moreno was “all in” on upgrading a pitching staff that has been the franchise’s Achilles’ heel. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said earlier Tuesday that his club was being “more aggressive than I can recall,” and spoke fondly of meeting with Cole earlier this autumn.
But the Yankees blew away the field in this bi-coastal battle for the off-season’s preeminent prize.
Consider this: Just one pitcher in the modern free agency era received an eight-year contract – Mike Hampton, who signed a $121 million pact with the Rockies in 2001.
Cole has now surpassed Hampton in years, and Strasburg and Zack Greinke ($34 million over six years) in average annual value, and landed just shy of the $330 million Bryce Harper landed in March – the biggest free-agent deal in baseball history.
For all that, the Yankees are expecting just one outcome: A World Series title.
Contributing: Gabe Lacques in San Diego