At some point, enough would be enough. At some point Hal Steinbrenner would grow tired of issuing an apology to Yankees fans at the end of each season for coming up short and failing to deliver a championship. That point ended up being 10 years without a championship, four ALCS losses over a decade and the continued unsuccessful strategy of playing every October game by planning for 15 outs from the bullpen. That’s the point when the Yankees decided to act like the the Yankees again and throw around their financial might the way they used by giving Gerrit Cole a nine-year, $324 million contract.
It didn’t take long for the outcry of a starting pitcher getting paid through age 38 at $36 million per season, and it didn’t take long for some to assume the Yankees would eventually regret the deal. But they will only regret it if nine years from now they haven’t won a championship since 2009. Otherwise, there won’t be any regret. The goal is to win championships. Not worry about the financial state of the team and whatever the luxury tax will be in baseball in 2028. And the goal certainly isn’t to worry about the state of the Steinbrenners’ bank account. If the Padres can afford $300 million contracts, the Yankees can more than afford $324 million contracts. This move in no way inhibits the team from necessary future moves, the same way $324 million didn’t inhibit them from this necessary move.
And this move was necessary. The Yankees had to have Cole. They had to. They couldn’t waste another season of this current championship window by being content with four innings from their starting pitchers in October. They couldn’t waste another season debating what the order of their rotation should be for the postseason because they didn’t have a true No. 1. They couldn’t sit by and let yet another superstar free agent sign elsewhere.
Somewhere along the way the Yankees started caring about three and four and five seasons down the road. It’s why the last time they went out and successfully got the guy they wanted and the guy everyone thought they would get was 11 years ago when they outbid themselves to pull CC Sabathia away from California and put him into pinstripes. It took the Yankees not wanting Justin Verlander’s salary in August 2017, cutting payroll by $50 million for 2018 after coming within a game of the 2017 World Series and not wanting to go an extra year on Patrick Corbin, but the Yankees finally changed course and signed the best available free-agent starting pitcher, crushing both the average annual salary and total salary records for a pitcher.
The Yankees did what they used to do and signed the guy everyone expected them to. The Yankees have their ace, but more importantly, the Yankees are back to acting like the Yankees.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!