Winners and Losers of Gerrit Cole's Signing with the New York Yankees

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2019

Winners and Losers of Gerrit Cole's Signing with the New York Yankees

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Baseball fans woke up Wednesday to news that the New York Yankees had reportedly signed Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million contract, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

    It's a landscape-altering move that has sweeping ramifications on the sport.

    The signing shifts the balance of power in the American League, and it leaves the clubs that missed out on Cole scrambling for alternatives.

    It also impacts the rest of the free-agent market, as well as the Yankees' roster makeup for the upcoming season.

    With all of that in mind, here is a look at the biggest winners and losers of the Cole signing.

Loser: Jordan Montgomery

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees entered the offseason with four spots locked in for the 2020 starting rotation:

    • RHP Luis Severino
    • LHP James Paxton
    • RHP Masahiro Tanaka
    • LHP J.A. Happ

    According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the team is actively shopping Happ, who is owed $17 million in the final year of his contract in 2020.

    While that rotation spot could open up before next season, the Cole signing, for now, leaves Jordan Montgomery on the outside looking in.

    The 26-year-old put together a strong rookie season in 2017, posting a 3.88 ERA (116 ERA+) and 1.23 WHIP with 144 strikeouts in 155.1 innings.

    However, an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery limited him to 31.1 innings the past two seasons. He returned for two appearances in September and was eyeing a spot in the 2020 rotation with a full offseason to rebuild his arm strength.

    Now he's more likely to head to Triple-A to start the season, where he can stay stretched out as a starter in the event that a spot opens up in the rotation.

Winner: Madison Bumgarner

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    With Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler off the market, former San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner is the best available starting pitching option.

    Prior to the Cole signing, Heyman reported Bumgarner was increasingly likely to receive at least $100 million this offseason.

    Now that seems like a lock.

    The Minnesota Twins have been strongly linked to Bumgarner throughout the offseason, while The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported after Cole's signing that the Los Angeles Dodgers will "now shift their focus" to pursuing the longtime rival.

    Other teams could also enter the fray, and with no clear-cut alternatives for an established front-line starteraside from the oft-injured Hyun-Jin Ryuthe price may climb even higher.

    While Dallas Keuchel's free-agency journey stretched into the regular season last year, being the last man standing at the top of the starting pitching market appears to be advantageous this time around.

Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Hyun-Jin Ryu
    Hyun-Jin RyuJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels were widely regarded as the co-favorites to sign Cole heading into the winter meetings, but there was a third serious contender.

    According to Heyman, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the other team hot on the trail of the 2019 AL Cy Young runner-up.

    It makes sense that the major-market Dodgers would aim high as they look to rebuild their starting rotation with the potential departures of Ryu and Rich Hill in free agency.

    As it stands, the Dodgers rotation shapes up as follows:

    • LHP Clayton Kershaw
    • RHP Walker Buehler
    • RHP Kenta Maeda
    • LHP Julio Urias
    • RHP Tony Gonsolin/Dustin May

    While there's plenty of potential in that group, there are also a lot of question marks. Maeda and Urias spent a good chunk of the 2019 season pitching in relief, while Gonsolin and May have pitched just 74.2 combined MLB innings.

    As noted, the Dodgers are reportedly pursuing Bumgarner, but missing out on Cole puts them in the loser column for the time being.

Winner: Gerrit Cole

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    There are 324 million reasons to call Gerrit Cole a winner.

    The hard-throwing right-hander is the proud owner of the richest contract ever signed by a pitcher, both in total money and average annual salary, surpassing the seven-year, $245 million deal Stephen Strasburg signed with the Washington Nationals on Monday.

    If anyone was deserving of the mantle, it's Cole.

    The 29-year-old led the American League in ERA (2.50), FIP (2.64) and strikeouts (326) while setting the single-season record for strikeouts per nine innings (13.8) by a pitcher who qualified for the ERA title.

    That said, Cole does not earn the spot of "biggest winner" following his decision to sign with the Yankees despite his record-setting payday.

    He was going to get paid a silly amount of money regardless of where he signed.

    The two teams most directly impacted by his decision fill the spots of "biggest winner" and "biggest loser."

Biggest Loser: Los Angeles Angels

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    It's a tough time to be a Los Angeles Angels fan.

    This was the offseason they were finally going to bolster the roster enough to build a contender around superstar Mike Trout. This was the winter they were finally going to address the longstanding need for starting pitching help.

    Now what?

    While they focused their attention on Cole, top arms like Strasburg, Wheeler, Cole Hamels, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson signed elsewhere.

    They have not yet been strongly linked to Bumgarner, so it's unclear what their next move will be to address the starting staff.

    Some quality arms are still searching for new contracts, including Ryu, Keuchel, Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey, Julio Teheran and Wade Miley.

    There's a steep drop-off from Cole to that group, though.

    The front office has already swung a trade to acquire Dylan Bundy, and Shohei Ohtani will presumably be back on the mound early in the 2020 season.

    Missing out on Cole is still an undeniable blow to the team's plans.

Biggest Winner: New York Yankees

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    Brian Cashman
    Brian CashmanFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees finally got their guy.

    As the No. 28 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Cole spurned the Yankees to honor his commitment to UCLA. Then, nearly 10 years later, the Yankees lost out to the Houston Astros when Cole hit the trade block prior to the 2018 season.

    Twice they pursued him aggressively, twice they thought they had a real chance to bring him aboard, and twice they were left empty-handed.

    It cost them $324 million, but they finally got him.

    He joins a starting rotation that ranked 15th in the majors with a 4.51 ERA, worst among the 10 teams that reached the postseason in 2019.

    A full, healthy season from Luis Severino and more of the same from Cole would give the Yankees one of the most dynamic one-two punches in baseball. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are also capable of pitching at a front-line level.

    There's a lot of offseason left, but as things stand, the Yankees might be the team to beat in 2020.

             

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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