Could the Yankees lose ace pitcher after the 2023 season?

MLB: New York Yankees at Colorado Rockies, gerrit cole, yankees
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are proceeding down a path that diverges sharply from what superstar slugger Aaron Judge and ace Gerrit Cole envisioned when they signed their long-term deals.

Aaron Judge’s Nine-Year Commitment

Judge inked a nine-year, $360 million contract this past offseason, wholeheartedly trusting owner Hal Steinbrenner’s vision of winning a championship and committing to that goal.

Gerrit Cole’s Lifelong Yankee Dream and Possible Opt-Out

Cole, a lifelong Yankee fan, signed a nine-year, $324 million deal during the 2020 offseason that included a 2024 opt-out clause. The possibility exists that Cole might opt out of his current contract in pursuit of a World Series title, although it remains an unlikely event.

The 32-year-old starter boasts a 2.76 ERA, 3.69 xFIP, 9.56 strikeouts per nine, and 80.7% left-on-base rate, with a 39.6% ground ball rate over 156.1 innings this year. With 25 starts, Cole is building a compelling argument for the AL Cy Young award this season. His excellent velocity and command make him irreplaceable, but the Yankees have a strategy should he decide to trigger his opt-out clause.

Built into Gerrit’s 2024 opt-out, the Yankees can nullify it by adding a 2029 club option. Cole will continue to earn an average of $36 million per season until his contract expires in 2029.

The Yankees have no intention of letting their only consistent pitcher depart unless he demands his release and threatens to sit out. Considering his affection for the organization, Cole will likely remain with the Yankees, trusting that they can assemble a winning team. Meanwhile, he will add to his personal accolades based on his performance.

However, Cole’s age is a factor, and the window to win a championship with the Bombers at the peak of his abilities is gradually closing.

Attempts to Reinforce the Yankees: Failures and Setbacks

General manager Brian Cashman made efforts to enhance the team this past offseason by signing Carlos Rodon to a six-year, $162 million deal. Unfortunately, the initial year of this tenure has not unfolded as planned.

The team’s desperate need for more offensive support went unmet, with no significant moves in the offseason and inactivity at the trade deadline. Such stagnation must be disheartening for Cole, especially during one of his best seasons.

Several failed trades have also unraveled, notably the acquisition of Josh Donaldson and his remaining $50 million salary over two years. Furthermore, Cashman’s inability to acquire a starting pitcher at last year’s deadline, settling for an already injured Frankie Montas, adds to the frustration. Montas has yet to pitch an inning this year and will likely exit in free agency, leaving behind nothing but disappointment.

Future Prospects: A Need for a Youthful Approach

Management must begin to consider their youth prospects and the future beyond this season. Persisting with their current depth pieces is a strategy that fails to enhance the team’s ability to win, leaving them in a state of purgatory with no solutions for past failures. The Yankees’ current direction requires a comprehensive evaluation and potential recalibration to align with the ambitions of their star players and the expectations of their fan base.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: