Murti: Whether It's Cole Or Strasburg, Yankees Need To Make A Big Pitching Splash


The Yankees are meeting with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, as first reported early Tuesday morning by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It doesn’t appear to be for show either. They are big game hunting again … and it’s been a while.

It feels like the right time for the Yankees to make the big pitching splash. Over the last 25 years, they have reached out to a front line, big money pitcher on the free agent market three times — David Cone in 1995 (he was their own free agent after being acquired in a trade that summer), Mike Mussina in 2000, and CC Sabathia in 2008. Each of them instantly became among the richest contracts ever handed out to a pitcher. Sabathia’s was the highest when he signed for 7 years and $161 million.

Since that deal with Sabathia eleven years ago, these are the free agent pitchers that have signed for bigger contracts: 

David Price - $217M, 7 years

Max Scherzer - $210M, 7 years

Zach Greinke - $206.5M, 6 years

This doesn’t count the extensions signed by Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg—also larger in total value than Sabathia’s—because they were not free agents and on the open market.

Other $100M+ pitchers like Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Patrick Corbin signed elsewhere.

The Yankees did sign Masahiro Tanaka for $155M over 7 years, a contract that expires after next season. James Paxton will also be a free agent after next season.

There is a need now, not simply a desire. There was a time when Brian Cashman had to simple tell George Steinbrenner, “You can’t have all of them.”  This is now about restocking and reinvesting. The Yankees made those previous moves with the idea that one would replace another—Mussina replaced Cone, Sabathia replaced Mussina.

It seems like the right time to make a move that will fortify a team that is already contending at a championship level. 

Some other thoughts:

1) Sunday we will find out if Don Mattingly or Thurman Munson will join Derek Jeter for next summer’s induction into the Hall of Fame. There are 16 members on the panel considering those two former Yankees captains as well as Dale Murphy, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, and others. There are 12 votes needed for election.

Very little is ever revealed about the process except for the final vote totals and the members of the committee, which is a mix of Hall of Fame players, long time executives, writers and historians.

Thurman MunsonGetty Images

I don’t know if anyone will be elected on this ballot, but I hope there is.  There are some really great players on this list, and even if Dave Parker and Dwight Evans don’t evoke the same imagery of names like Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame should be about celebrating great careers that stitch together the history of the game. And even if the bar is moved slightly down from years past, you are still talking about the elite of the elite in the sport. 

The Hall of Fame elections should be about celebrating great careers, not screaming down anyone who differs with your opinion of what a Hall of Famer should be.

2) The Astros investigation and punishment is a black cloud over the sport right now and everyone expects MLB to hit them hard so it is a strong enough deterrent for teams thinking about traveling down that road in the future.

But I don’t think MLB wants the talk of it to dominate the Winter Meetings next week which as I noted above includes a possible Hall of Fame election.  So I wonder if they would wait until after the meetings to announce a punishment. 

AstrosUSA Today Images

There are media events with every team’s manager and most general managers during the four days of the Winter Meetings.  And hundreds of media members on hand too.  It doesn’t seem like MLB would want to make that story dominate every session, overshadowing even any free agent signings that might occur. 

I don’t know that for certain, but there is an awful lot of PR to handle if the Astros punishment is announced this close to the Winter Meetings or during it.

3) Spring training is two months away. 

While I am most eager to see Deivi Garcia in major league camp, I’m also curious to see Chance Adams.  Adams has survived on the 40-man roster, and I’ve heard that his early off-season work with Sam Briend, the pitching coordinator hired away from Driveline earlier this year, has shown an uptick in velocity again. 

Adams still needs to refine his repertoire and off-speed stuff, but if he’s throwing the ball again like he did a couple years ago then he might be a pitcher the Yankees can count on for quality depth behind their main rotation pieces in 2020.