Gerrit Cole Signing Proves the Yankees Are Back to Their Old Ways

Gerrit Cole pitching for the Houston Astros
Gerrit Cole pitching for the Houston Astros / Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Yankees, as we've known them for a generation, are back. With the signing of Gerrit Cole to a massive, nine-year, $324 million deal, the Yankees have reasserted themselves as the team that will pony up cash to get whatever player they want, whenever they want. The "Evil Empire" has apparently risen from the ashes.

Cole gives Yankees the kind of dominant ace teams lust after. Over the past two seasons with the Houston Astros, he's become arguably the best pitcher in the game. In 2019, Cole went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings. He led all pitchers in baseball with a 7.4 fWAR.

The Yankees now boast an absurdly deep rotation. While Cole will headline the group, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Domingo German will fight to fit into the other spots. Meanwhile, the starting lineup will boast Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton. That's a group young and talented enough to compete for years to come.

Forget the rest of this though: the real point is that the Yankees are back to being the Yankees. They're giving $36 million a year to a pitcher over nine years, doling out the biggest contract for an arm in baseball history in the process. That's what they used to do seemingly every offseason.

For the better part of two decades, the Yankees didn't try to land players, they vastly overbid their competitors to grab them. They took who they wanted and left everyone else scrambling for what was left. That's what the Cole deal felt like. The Yankees threw down a ridiculous contract and dared anyone else to match it. No one did.

The Yankees won 103 games in 2019 and have already made themselves demonstrably better this offseason. In the process, they also weakened the Astros, who seem to be their main competition in the American League in 2020. Yes, the back-end of Cole's deal could be a disaster, but the Yankees have rarely cared about such things. Worrying about paying the luxury tax and carrying bloated contracts are worries for other teams, not the one residing in the Bronx.

The Yankees opened the 2019 season with baseball's second biggest payroll at $205.4 million. After Cole's deal the team's payroll is currently sitting at around $232 million-- and they;re still expected to add a shortstop. That means the team will likely have to shed costs somewhere.

Cole's deal is fairly ridiculous, but credit the Yankees for going after their guy. They've wanted him since they drafted him out of high school way back in 2008 but he turned down their $4 million offer and attended UCLA. They didn't give him a chance to turn them down 11 years later.

The Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2009. By outbidding everyone for Cole, they reestablished themselves as the team everyone in baseball is chasing both on and off the field.

The Evil Empire has returned.