The Yankees were able to land Gerrit Cole, but several events had to occur to allow the Yankees to put Cole in pinstripes.
Gerrit Cole has been on Brian Cashman’s radar since he was a teenager in high school. The Yankees drafted the southern California native with the 28th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, although they were unsuccessful in signing him as he opted to attend UCLA.
Before the start of the 2018 season, Cole was on the trade block and was expected to draw plenty of interest, once again, including the Yankees. The sweepstakes came down between the Astros and the Yankees but Cashman was not willing to part ways with Miguel Andujar, who the Pirates were heavily scouting. Cole was ultimately traded to the Astros, where he would spend the next two seasons.
The following offseason the Yankees are heavily linked around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, particularly Machado. Andujar was strong at the plate but struggled in the field. This led to rumors flying around about Machado heading to New York. He ultimately signed a 10-year, $300 million with the San Diego Padres.
Harper was another player the Yankees had links to for several years leading up to his free agency. It was considered a long shot to sign the former Nationals’ right fielder, but the Yankees remained “in the mix.” Harper eventually signed with the Phillies to an MLB record 13-year, $330 million contract, which would be broken by Mike Trout’s extension just a couple of weeks later.
Cashman was not able to land either player that offseason. The Yankees were looking to add a big name to the roster to bolster their chances of winning a World Series title but ended up spending much less money while still adding quality players.
But what if the Yankees were able to land one of these players? Giancarlo Stanton was already on the books at $25 million annually for nearly another decade and Cashman only had room for one additional long-term contract. If that long-term deal were to be used on either Harper or Machado, the Yankees would not have been able to land Cole.
It is very possible that the number one priority all along was to sign Gerrit Cole, doing whatever it would take to acquire his services and that Harper and Machado’s agents used the Yankees to bump their prices up. In the end, the Yankees got their guy (and for the next nine years).