The Yankees pitching has struggled early on, but did they miss out on a possible fix this offseason by not trading for Gerrit Cole?
Gerrit Cole grew up as a Yankee fan and was even drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008 draft. This offseason when the Yankees were connected to Cole, it almost felt like destiny that he would find his way to the Bronx. Destiny, it was not as Cole ended up in Houston with the Astros.
20 games into the season and a mix of Yankees pitching problems and Cole’s resurgence has led Yankee fans to wonder if they missed out on the 27-year-old pitcher.
In four starts with the Astros thus far, Cole has posted a 0.96 ERA with 13.18 K/9 in 28 innings. This would not be an early season analysis article without me yelling sample size at you, but there are some encouraging, and predictable signs that something has changed with Cole.
According to Fangraphs, Cole has thrown his fastball 51.8% of the time, while throwing his slider and curveball 23.7% and 16.6% respectively. In five previous seasons, he had never thrown his fastball less than 60% of the time. As for the off-speed stuff, the only time he’s thrown the slider above 20%, was during his CY Young type season in 2015.
You may have noticed that I called those changes in Cole predictable and that is because it was very predictable. All offseason analysts, scouts, and even fans noted that a change in scenery and philosophy could pay off in a major way for Cole. He’s always had great stuff and potential, people just thought he threw his fastball far too much.
The reason this was so important was that the Yankees were seen as a team that could make this change in Cole. In 2017 the Yankees threw the lowest percentage of fastballs in the MLB, with a 44.9% mark. The Yankees and Astros are the two teams everyone has talked about during the breaking ball revolution and they were both seen as teams who could help Cole the most.
Now, let’s talk about what the Yankees were supposedly offering and what the Astros gave up. The consensus among media was that the Yankees were offering Clint Frazier and possibly even Chance Adams. It was said that the Pirates also wanted Miguel Andujar, but the Yankees were not willing to part with both Frazier and Andujar.
For all intents and purposes, the package the Pirates got from the Astros does not match what the Yankees were supposedly offering. The Astros sent Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin. Musgrove is a former top prospect who was sent to the bullpen after struggling last year. Moran was the highest prospect sent over, as he checks in at number five on the Pirates list. Martin is a lower level outfield prospect while Feliz is a reliever who struggled in 46 appearances last year.
Moran and Musgrove were the big pieces, and it’s safe to say that just one of Andujar or Frazier would have been a better haul than those two players. If you throw in a couple of lower level Yankee prospects and the haul would have been much better for the Pirates. It is still unknown why the Yankees weren’t able to cash in on this price drop.
It is for this reason though that I don’t think there is a definitive answer to whether or not the Yankees missed out on Cole. We as fans can’t possibly know what goes on in the front offices. We only know what the media tells us and what the media presumes to be accurate. There could have been a million reasons why Brian Cashman didn’t pull the trigger on Cole, but we would have never known about those reasons.
I agree it is frustrating to see Cole pitching so well while knowing he could be in pinstripes. I think it’s fair to say the Yankees potentially missed out, especially since Cole is under contract until 2020, but always consider that there are lots of things that us fans do not know about that can affect a deal. Brian Cashman has earned the benefit of the doubt with all the great deals he has made the past few years and that is exactly what I will give him.