The Yankees really pulled out all the stops
One of the most interesting subplots of the Gerrit Cole signing has been how it’s shed light on free agent recruitment in baseball.
We hear all the time about how NBA teams and players try to convince free agents to sign, which makes sense because it’s a league with a salary cap. NBA teams can only offer identical max contracts and so a player’s decision on where to sign is about environment and supporting cast instead of money.
But up until recently I think I was (naively) under the impression that MLB teams just haggled with players and agents over contract details until they came to an agreement on a dollar amount and put ink to paper. Thanks to Gerrit Cole, we know that’s far from the case.
Since Cole signed last week, a few details have trickled out about how the Yankees tried to sway him to sign in New York (beyond the nine-year, $324 million contract). We know that they brought Andy Pettitte, one of Cole’s childhood heroes, to their meeting with Cole in California. They also presented him with a mysterious “30-pound-ish contraption.” Yankees clubhouse manager Lou Cucuzza also played an unexpected role.
Cucuzza and Cole had struck up a friendship during Cole’s visits to the Bronx. On one occasion, Cole told Cucuzza about a trip he took with his wife to Florence, Italy, and a meal they had there that included a bottle of one of the world’s best wines. When Yankees manager Aaron Boone walked into the room for the meeting with Cole, he was carrying two bottles of that same wine. Cole was floored.
"I'm really good friends with Lou. He's just about as classy as it gets. I've been fortunate to work with some really great guys in the clubhouse. I love (Astros clubhouse manager) Carl Schneider, I love (Pirates clubhouse manager) Scott Bonnett. There are some visiting clubhouse guys that are really close to my heart and Lou is one of them. You walk into a foreign atmosphere and you need someone to take care of you, and that's what those guys do.
"I always come into Lou's office when I got nothing to do and I kick my feet up on the table, and we just talk about stuff. We were talking about my trip to Italy with my wife the other year, and he always likes to know what I'm cooking because I like to cook at my house. I showed him pictures of a meal that we ate in a cellar in Florence and there's a picture of a bottle of Masseto. He asked me what the bottle was and I said, 'It's Masseto, it's probably acknowledged as the second best red wine in the world.'
"Aaron brought a couple bottles of it and one of the vintages they brought was one of the exact same vintage from the anniversary dinner that my wife and I had in Florence. I was a little bit back on my heels. I remember trying to stay focused on the meeting and not thinking about booze the entire time, but I still couldn't figure it out.
"When I came home, I was telling (my wife) Amy, 'How the f--- did they pull that off?' Not many people in the world know that that's my favorite wine ... I laid my head down at like 11:30 at night and didn't sleep much that day. I flew back up and I was like, 'LOU!' I remembered the conversation and I guess it went from Lou to (Brian Cashman) to Boone."
A gesture like that isn’t going to convince someone to sign a nine-year contract but it will definitely make them feel better about doing so.
The two bottles the Yankees brought were a 2004 and 2005 vintage of Masseto. It was the 2004 edition that Cole and his wife had had in Italy.
“The 2004 Masseto is all silk and elegance,” Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker writes. “The 2004 is arguably the most finessed, silky Masseto ever made. Bright floral notes add lift and precision to a core of sweet red berries and spices in this supple, exceptionally polished wine. This is the height of elegance and polish with Masseto.”
If you want to try it for yourself, you can pick up a bottle for just $900.
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