Major League Baseball’s offseason has officially begun and all eyes are about to shift to the big boys on the market.
The Washington Nationals’ celebration of a first-ever World Series title isn’t even in full swing yet, but baseball’s focus is set to move to the free-agent market — where several sizable names could be on the move.
The thrilling seven-game Fall Classic featured two of this winter’s biggest free agents as Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon and Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole are set to test the waters.
The latter is expected to be at least monitored by the New York Yankees, who remain in desperate need of a legitimate starting arm for the top end of their rotation.
Starting pitching was one of the downfalls of the Yankees in 2019 as their 103-win season fell agonizingly short in the ALCS against Cole and those very same Astros.
Luis Severino battled shoulder and lat issues to get back for the postseason, but his starts left plenty to be desired for a franchise still searching for its true ace.
James Paxton — acquired from the Mariners last winter — finished strong in the second half to indicate the Yankees have a promising No. 2 or 3 southpaw.
Masahiro Tanaka is entering the final year of his contract in 2020 where his arm remains inconsistent — despite more strong showings in the postseason.
In the first year of a three-year deal, JA Happ struggled to find his footing in the Bronx as his season ERA flirted with 5.00.
Add the retirement of CC Sabathia and the likely exit of Domingo German after violating the Major League Baseball Player Associations’ domestic violence policy — and there are plenty of holes in the rotation.
Cole would be the premier arm the Yankees have so sorely missed as the 29-year-old is coming off a sterling 20-5 2019 with a league-best 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts.
There’s little chance that Cole will return to Houston in 2020. Shortly after the Astros dropped Game 7, Cole thanked the fans in a gesture usually performed by departing players.
His teammate, outfielder Josh Reddick, even told Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller that the Newport, CA-native Cole is a “West Coast guy.”
That narrows his list of destinations by a considerable margin and makes a team like the Angels a supreme fit. They’re a club that isn’t afraid to spend money, has a generational star in Mike Trout, and is in desperate need of pitching.
It would be the latest page in the Yankees’ saga of narrow misses for the righty. They drafted Cole in the first round in 2008, but the pitcher opted to head to UCLA, instead.
Three years later, he was taken by the Pirates where the Yankees attempted to pursue him via trade in the ensuing years.
If the Yankees didn’t have the massive contract of Giancarlo Stanton on the books, they would have been considered as a favorite to land Cole in free agency.
For now, though, they might have to settle on some of the secondary arms the market has to offer.