The New York Yankees landed the top free-agent pitcher on the market when Gerrit Cole agreed to a nine-year contract worth $324 million. Cole will earn $36 million per year or more than $1 million per start, which makes him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.

NY Yankees Gerrit Cole free agent highest paid pitcher
Ex-Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole gets a high-five from teammates in Houston during the 2019 ALCS. (Image: Porter Lambert/Getty)

Cole, 29, went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA last season. He led the league with 326 strikeouts and became the 18th player in big league history to whiff 300-plus in a season. In the postseason, Cole posted a 4-1 record with a 1.72 ERA. Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young, while Cole finished second in voting.

The Cole deal comes a couple days after Stephen Strasburg agreed to a record deal to return to the Washington Nationals. At the time, Strasburg signed a record deal worth $35 million per season, or $245 million over seven years. Cole eclipsed Strasburg by a cool million per season.

Highest-Paid Pitchers (2020)
Gerrit Cole (Yankees) $36 million
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) $35 million
Justin Verlander (Astros) $33 million
Zack Greinke (Astros) $32 million
David Price (Red Sox) $32 million

Cole is one of five pitchers who will earn over $30 million next season. That list also includes Strasburg, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and David Price.

Aces for Sale

The Washington Nationals won the World Series because of their aces, Strasburg and Max Scherzer. The Houston Astros lost the World Series to the Nats, but they won the American League pennant with their trio of aces, Verlander, Greinke, and Cole.

The Astros edged out the Yankees last winter in the free agent market when they outbid them for Greinke’s services.

The Nationals want to defend their World Series, and didn’t let Strasburg walk to another team. They kept their core rotation intact, with Strasburg, Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin.

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anaheim Angels were interested in Cole’s services. While the Yankees had the monetary advantage, the Dodgers and Angels had the inside track if Cole desired to return home to Southern California where he grew up and played his collegiate baseball.

Bank of the Bronx

The Yankees weren’t shy in expressing their interest to make Cole the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. After losing out on Corbin the year before, the Yankees made signing Cole or Strasburg a priority. When Strasburg opted to return to Washington and defend the title, the Yankees went all-in on Cole.

“We all understand we have a special team that’s hopefully in the middle of a chance to do some great things,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Anytime you’re talking about a player the caliber of Gerrit Cole, and knowing what he can potentially mean to our club, it’s no surprise that we are as invested as we are in pursuing him.”

The Yankees originally drafted Cole out of high school. He opted to attend UCLA instead. In 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Cole with the #1 pick. He pitched five seasons with the Pirates, and went 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA and 734 strikeouts. The Astros acquired him in 2018. He went 35-10 in two seasons in Houston with a 2.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts.

Cole will join a starting rotation in the Bronx that includes Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton, and JA Happ.

The Yankees are one of the top favorites to win the 2020 World Series, along with the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. After signing Cole, the Yankees’ World Series odds improved to 5/1.

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