Despite coming up with a dud in the Wild Card game for the New York Yankees, ace Gerrit Cole is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s had minor inconsistencies over the past two seasons after signing a lucrative nine-year, $324 million contract worth $36 million on average per season.
This past year, Cole finished with a 3.23 ERA and made a strong push for the Cy Young award. He posted a 12.06 strikeouts per nine rate, 77.9% left on-base percentage and 43.1% ground ball rate, his highest since joining the Yankees.
While his 16 wins were impressive, he picked up eight losses over 181.1 innings. After the MLB cracked down on spider tack, Cole saw a spin rate and velocity reduction.
However, he did throw his fastball at 97.8 mph, the highest of his entire career. He also threw his change up 89.9 mph, another career-best. However, he saw a big influx in change-up usage at 14.2% this past season, the highest of his career. His fastball dipped to 47.3% after throwing it more than 50% of the time since 2018.
Despite minor changes to his game, Cole was still a daunting task for many hitters, especially Brett Phillips of the Tampa Bay Rays.
@GerritCole45 … dude struck me out like 5 times in 5 at bats last season haha I looked like I never played baseball facing him.
— Maverick Phillips (@Brett_Phillips8) January 3, 2022
Phillips claims that Cole is the best pitcher he’s ever faced, striking out all five times and making him feel like he never played baseball before.
Cole can have that elite effect on hitters, but he does have issues giving up home runs at times, which can overshadow his hard work.
Carlos Rodon makes the most sense for the Yankees:
One way or another, the Yankees desperately need to find a complement to Cole in the number two starting pitching spot. One free agent option is Carlos Rodon, who’s coming off his best season in the MLB with a Chicago White Sox.
Rodon turned in a 2.37 ERA this past season over 132.2 innings. He picked up 13 wins with a 12.55 strikeout per nine rate and 82.2% left on-base percentage.
The 29-year-old starter saw significant increases in velocity, throwing his fastball 95.4 mph after hitting just 93 mph in 2020. Clearly, a change in fundamentals impacted his play in a positive way. He saw career highs in velocity with his fastball, change-up, and slider. He utilized his fastball on 58.7% of his pitches, another high.
While Rodon may command significant money, the Yankees might be able to overspend on a year over year basis to keep the contract short given his small sample size of success. Nonetheless, his upside is exciting for a team in free agency, and the Yankees may need to take a gamble on a player of his talents.