SAN DIEGO – An advertisement that started in 2008 was rekindled on December 3 in a suite at the Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach, California. The Yankees arrived at the hotel with gifts for Gerrit Cole, designed by Orange Lutheran High, more than a decade earlier, before failing to give up their commitment to UCLA
But this off-season, after perhaps becoming the best pitcher in baseball, Cole was a coveted free agent. And one of the teams he grew up on had given him top priority.
The Yankees brought a gold-colored, plate-shaped box with his name and jewelry in it. There were team t-shirts and bracelets, as well as a smart tablet with information that an opposing player would not know about the Yankees, such as: B. The club house's equipment and resources to support the families of the players.
The club hired a number of officials across the organization, from Andy Pettitte, a former Houston Astro and Yankee player who won five World Series in the Bronx and was one of Cole's favorite players, to Hal Steinbrenner, the principal the Yankees owner. During a four-hour hotel meeting with Cole, his wife, and agent Scott Boras, the Yankees' contingent – which included Pettitte, General Manager Brian Cashman, Manager Aaron Boone, Deputy General Manager Michael Fishman and Matt Blake, the new pitching- Team coach – tried to court 29-year-old Cole.
"We're not trying to sell anything," said Cashman. "We're just trying to make sure we educate the player and his family about our culture and everything we are."
The strategy worked and ended late Tuesday with an agreement for a record $ 324 million deal over nine years. This made Cole the highest-paid pitcher in Major League history and cemented the Yankees' status as favorites to win the 2020 World Series. It was a kind of deal, reminiscent of the so-called Evil Empire Yankees under Steinbrenners father George. He used the club's deep pockets to attract the most talented free-hand players.
Cole, who led the Astros to the World Series in his second season in Houston last year, was impressed by Pettitte and his stories of throwing and dealing with expectations in New York. Hal Steinbrenner, who was unable to attend the meeting in Southern California due to a family event, spoke to Cole on the phone and later played a key role in the negotiations.
After meeting at the hotel, Cole left and discussions between Boras and the Yankees continued, while dining in the nearby restaurant Louie & # 39; s by the Bay.
The call for Cole only started on Monday when Stephen Strasburg – another star free agent pitcher and Boras customer – agreed to return to the then world champion Washington Nationals: seven years and $ 245 million.
Then came the offers for Cole, who is two years younger than Strasburg and the most coveted free agent. Two large market teams near Cole's hometown Newport Beach also chased him seriously.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, striving for their first World Series title since 1988, finally reached an eight-year, $ 300 million offer that included deferrals of payments. This was indicated by three negotiators who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them.
The Los Angeles Angels, who have the best baseball player in Mike Trout but haven't been able to reach the playoffs since 2014, also offered an eight-year deferred payment contract, which was just under $ 300 million.
But the Yankees, who haven't won a World Series since 2009, were ready to do more than that. They recognized the need for a top-notch starter pitcher – as evidenced by the Nationals winning a World Series title by relying on aces Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Strasburg.
The Yankees won 103 games in the 2019 regular season, largely due to their strong offensive and bullpen. However, the starting rotation was hit by poor performance as well as numerous injuries and ended with a deserved run average of 4.51, the 15th place in the main leagues. And the Yankees believed that Cole was the type of person who could exaggerate.
"I can only guarantee a championship performance on our part, with the sign of the cross in our possession," said Cashman earlier in the week when the team was recruiting Cole.
Cole, whose deal has not yet been finalized, could immediately improve the Yankees' starting rotation. His right arm is able to execute fastballs at a speed of 100 miles per hour. He went 24-6 with a earned run average of 2.39 and 373 strikeouts last year, including postseason. From May 22nd until the end of the playoffs, he only lost one game when he put together one of the largest stretches in Major League history and scored an E.R.A. and 258 strikes over 169 ° innings. He has also had few injuries.
"A guy who is sure to be in the prime of his career," Boone said Wednesday morning, adding later, "This is a type of person who has the best qualities and the best makeup."
Cole, in turn, liked what he heard and saw from the Yankees, who set themselves apart from their West Coast competition by extending their offering to nine years. The third and final iteration of their offer had no deferrals, a full non-trading clause, and an opt-out for players after the fifth year. In addition, records for overall commitment to pitchers and the highest average annual value – hitting – were set Trout business (average annual $ 35.5 million).
(The Yankees owe Astros Draft Pick compensation because Cole rejected their qualification offer.)
Cole agreed to his new offer for dinner on Tuesday. Within a few hours it became known that Cole was on his way to the Yankees.
Boras and his team celebrated in the lobby bar of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where the baseball's annual winter gatherings take place this week. Cashman and his staff did this in the bar on the 40th floor of the hotel.
The Yankees had already attempted to acquire Cole twice, in the 2008 draft and in trying to trade for him before the 2018 season when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cashman recently called Cole the team's "white whale". On Tuesday evening, the Yankees finally had it under control when they finished a courtship spanning more than ten years.