Report: Yankees Prepared To Make Record Contract Offer For Cole


The Yankees sound like a team determined to land Gerrit Cole. 

The Bronx Bombers have made signing the free agent pitcher their top priority this offseason and owner Hal Steinbrenner has signed off on offering the right-hander a record-setting deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported, citing sources familiar with the team's plans.

The Yankees are preparing to enter a bidding war with the Los Angeles Angels for Cole, whose price tag could soar well above $250 million, the report said. The Los Angeles Dodgers are very interested in Cole, too, though they are also reportedly considering making big-money offers to pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon.

The richest deal ever for a pitcher is the seven-year, $217 million contract David Price signed with the Boston Red Sox in December 2015.

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Pursuing -- and ultimately signing -- top free agents was the Yankee way for decades under former owner George Steinbrenner. But the team has not signed a free agent to a nine-figure contract since adding pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in 2014. The Yankees did, however, trade for slugger Giancarlo Stanton -- who had 10 years and $295 million left on his contract -- two years ago.

But starting pitching remains the Yankees' biggest weakness, and adding an ace such as Cole could be just the move that propels the franchise to its first World Series appearance since 2009.

Cole, 29, is coming off a dominant season with the Houston Astros in which he went 20-5 with an AL-best 2.50 ERA and MLB-leading 326 strikeouts. He was 16-0 with a 1.78 ERA over his final 22 regular season starts and then went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in the playoffs, in which Houston lost in the World Series in seven games to the Washington Nationals.

The Yankees met with Cole in California on Tuesday, but according to WFAN baseball insider, they did not discuss financials. The team's contingent of general manager Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake and former pitcher Andy Pettitte instead tried to sell Cole on the allure of playing for the storied franchise and winning.

There, however, has been speculation that Cole, who is from Newport Beach, California, might prefer to play for a team close to home. 

If he does sign with a California team, it would be déjà vu of sorts for the Yankees, who drafted Cole 28th overall in 2008, only to see him play for UCLA instead. The Bombers also tried unsuccessfully to trade for Cole after the 2017 season. He instead was dealt by the Pittsburgh Pirates to Houston, where he went 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA over two seasons.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have not ruled out pursuing Strasburg, 31, who went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA last season and was named World Series MVP, ESPN reported.