Gerrit Cole, Yankees Agree to Record $324 Million Deal

Max Goodman

From top target this offseason to top of the rotation, the Yankees got their guy.

Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees have agreed to a record nine-year, $324 million contract, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

One day after Stephen Strasburg agreed to the largest deal ever for a starting pitcher, Cole set a new benchmark -- the deal's average annual value of $36 million is the most for any free agent in baseball history.

Cole will reportedly receive a full no-trade clause, with an option to opt out after the first five years of his contract. That means none of Cole's money is deferred -- he'll get $36 million each year in pinstripes.

Leading up to late Tuesday evening, when the news broke, it appeared New York was the front-runner to sign the three-time All-Star. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers, both in Cole's native Southern California with geography on their side, were in the mix as well.

In the end, however, geography played a minimal role in the decision making process -- a combination of money and pennant-winning pedigree influenced where this hurler chose to sign.

Cole, along with agent Scott Boras, came to terms with the club they believed would give the 29-year-old the best chance to win a championship. He joins a 103-win team, headlining a star-studded roster with a high-powered offense and dynamic bullpen behind him. 

Further, Cole slots in as the ace of a pitching staff that includes Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Paxton and Tanaka will enter free agency next winter -- Cole will be in pinstripes for close to a decade.

The Gerrit Cole Sweepstakes lasted just shy of six weeks. The last we saw of Cole in an Astros uniform was on October 30, as he trudged back from the bullpen in Houston after a loss in Game 7 of the World Series. It was a whirlwind for the Yankees to get to this point -- a process that started back when Cole was in high school.

New York selected Cole with the 28th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft only to miss out as he elected to play college baseball and attend UCLA instead.

After being selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole made his Major League debut in 2013. Five seasons later he ended up on the trade block after the 2017 season. Brian Cashman and the Bombers attempted to bring Cole to the Bronx, but their trade offer simply wasn't enough for the Pirates, who agreed to a four-player trade with the Astros.

For the Yankees -- as the saying goes -- third time's a charm.

The organization was determined to sign Cole from the start, sending a contingent out to Southern California for an additional in person meeting ahead of this week's Winter Meetings. Part of that group was Andy Pettitte, one of Cole's favorite players from his childhood -- when he was a Yankee fan.

Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner proved their interest and didn't shy away from emptying their pockets. An agreement for $324 million tops Strasburg's $245 by $79 million, making Monday's temporary record seem obsolete. 

Initially reports surfaced of Cole being offered the identical figures that Strasburg ended up making. Negotiations proceeded rapidly and the $300 million mark -- which always felt like a bold prediction -- ended up as a highway marker with still a long road ahead.

Cole's deal comes 11 years after CC Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million contract, the largest for a starting pitcher in MLB history at the time. That offseason, the Bombers outbid other suitors, specifically contending teams located in Sabathia's home state of California, in order to bring the most sought after starting pitcher on the market cross-country to the Bronx.

Sound familiar?

In his first year in pinstripes, Sabathia helped bring a World Series title back to the Yankee faithful. 

The Yankees paid Cole to do the same. Now only time will tell to see if he'll be hoisting the 28th trophy in franchise history come October.

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