The New York Yankees are “extremely interested” in signing top free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole, according to a report by Elite Sports New York. At the same time, the team expects that Cole will opt to return home to southern California, where the Los Angeles Angels are reportedly prepared to open up their checkbook to bring Cole to Orange County.
Cole is a native of Orange County, California, and played his prep baseball at Orange Lutheran High School — only about a 15-minute drive from Angels Stadium. Shortly after Cole declared himself a free agent following the Houston Astros’ 2019 World Series loss to the Washington Nationals, oddsmakers installed the Angels as the favorite to land Cole in this offseason’s free agent chase. One sportsbook put Cole’s odds of ending up in Anaheim at 4:1.
The Angels themselves appear to believe that they offer the best opportunity for Cole. According to Elite Sports New York reporter Andy Martino, via Twitter, the Angels — who finished at a disappointing 72-90 in 2019, 35 games behind the AL West winning Astros — “are ready to go bonkers for him and spend whatever it takes.”
How vigorously the Yankees decide to pursue Cole, however, may depend on their evaluation of their current top pitching prospect, 20-year-old Dominican righty Deivi Garcia, as well as another highly-ranked prospect, Clarke Schmidt. The University of South Carolina right-hander was New York’s first-round draft pick (16th overall) in 2017.
Garcia, who advanced from high-single A ball all the way to the AAA level in the 2019 season, may be ready to break out and help the Yankees’ rotation in 2020, according to New York Post columnist Joel Sherman. But Sherman also points out that the Yankees have had little success producing reliable pitchers through their own player development system in recent years.
Of pitchers who were drafted or signed as amateur free agents by the Yankees, only two — Ivan Nova of the Chicago White Sox, and Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins — were able to start at least 28 games in 2019, Sherman reported.
Perhaps as a result of the uncertainty in their rotation, the Yankees are “still in” when it comes to the contest to sign Cole, according to Martino’s report. The 2021 season looks especially shaky for the Yankees pitching staff, which could lose Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ to free agency following the 2020 campaign.
The Yankees “have to sign the ace righty or add someone else of substance” in order to make sure they have a competitive rotation in the 2021 season, Sherman wrote in his Tuesday column.