iNews Baseball Bulletin – Dec. 2019 edition

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iNews Baseball Bulletin – Dec. 2019 edition

Zach Kaplan, Junior Editor-in-Chief

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A lot has happened in the baseball world since the Nationals won the World Series in October: Gerrit Cole signed a record breaking, 9-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in which he only can opt out after the fifth year. Recently, Anthony Rendon, Nationals’ star third baseman, signed a 7-year, $245 million contract with the Angels. His contract has no opt-outs to essentially ensure that his career will end in Southern California. 

In the first edition of Baseball Bulletin, I’ll discuss the events leading up to the Gerrit Cole signing and why the Yankees outlasted the Angels and their geographic advantage for Cole. I’ll also name some teams who could shock the baseball world in 2020 and make a run for the division. 

First, a summary of the Cole sweepstakes. 

At the start of the offseason–the Angels were pretty much written off as the team who would sign the sought-after right hander. They had it all–deep wallets, a new manager, and most importantly, Cole’s high school (Orange Lutheran) was five minutes away from Angel Stadium. 

The reason why people doubted the Yankees,who had a need for starting pitchers, was because they didn’t believe that A) they’d be able to sway Cole from his Californian roots and B) they’d be willing to spend a lot on Cole. 

After the meeting, new details started emerging pointing to the Yankees as favorites. To woo Gerrit Cole, the Yankees brought former hurler Andy Pettitte with them to the meeting. Pettitte was one of Cole’s favorite players when he was younger. Along with Pettitte, new pitching coach Matt Blake was in attendance of the first meeting. Cole is openly an analytics-heavy pitcher, so the Yankees must have said something to prove to Cole that analytics would be a big part of their strategy. 

Soon thereafter, Cole’s agent, Scott Boras, said that Cole would choose “the best deal regardless of geography,” and around the same time, Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, who was also there with Cole in California, said, “the money would be there,” regarding the Yanks’ contract to Cole. The 29-year old right-hander was the Yankees’ man, and this was another demonstration of that. The Yankees have the most money in the league, and it was this comment from Cashman that sort of solidified the Yankees’ place as favorites to land Cole. 

Then, the Yankees made their first offer to Cole, which would pay him $245 million over 7 years. Almost right after the Yanks’ made their first offer to Cole, the other main free agent pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, also represented by Boras, came off the board and signed a contract equal to that of the Yankees to go back to the Nationals. It was this new update that hinted that Cole’s final contract would be upwards of $300 million. 

The climax of the sweepstakes came at the Winter Meetings, and as a huge baseball fan who was receiving post notifications from two of the main MLB insiders (Jon Heyman and Jeff Passan), the whole thing evolved like a very well and premeditated story. Scott Boras is always skilled at dropping subtle hints and making free agency entertaining. 

The night of Tuesday, December 10th was when the Cole sweepstakes came to an end. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that all the people he spoke to who was in attendance of the Winter Meetings, held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego, believed Gerrit Cole would end up in pinstripes. 

And then it happened. Late into the night Cole had made his decision, and Yankee fans awoke Wednesday to the news that Cole had signed the biggest deal for a pitcher in MLB history, and that the individual income he’s making would be outrageous. These are some stats, as estimated by NESN:

  • $1.09 million per start
  • $36,000,000 per year
  •  $169K per inning
  • $110K per strikeout
  • $9,200 per pitch thrown

That’s simply comical. 

After the signing became public, Gerrit Cole basically said he wanted to be a Yankee from the beginning. The money was there, and according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Yankees’ choice to bring Andy Pettitte to the meetings was very influential, given that Pettitte’s story was very similar to Cole’s; the Yankees’ swayed him to sign with them by bringing Pettitte’s childhood idol (Roger Clemens) to meet him, and Pettitte wanted to pass the torch. 

2020 bold predictions

Next baseball season is going to be very different than last season. Firstly, the Astros are going to have a lot more to prove considering that their division will be slightly more competitive. 

  • The Angels are going to either win the division or qualify for a wild-card spot. 

The Angels are adopting a “buck stops here” mindset. Joe Maddon, the highly successful Cubs manager, is going to be the new Angels manager. They have Anthony Rendon as their new third-baseman as opposed to Zack Cozart, who they let go to San Francisco. They’re also shopping for a starter like Madison Bumgarner or Dallas Keuchel, and their wallet is still deep so they can afford to shell out some cash to some good players this offseason. I could see them competing with Oakland and Houston for the top spot.

  • The Red Sox are going to finish with a record worse than 81-81 (.500). 

The Sox let Rick Porcello go on a 1-year deal with the Mets, and now the Red Sox rotation is Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and David Price. Price was actually the holder of the biggest contract given to a pitcher, but has not delivered recently, and Rodriguez’s performance isn’t all too consistent, as is demonstrated by his stats. 2019 was supposed to be Boston’s year, and we all know how that story went. 

  • Corey Kluber is going to have a Top 10 Cy Young season in the AL.

Kluber’s 2019 campaign was cut in half by an unfortunate injury when he broke his forearm after he got hit with a comebacker, and even when he came back from that injury, oblique issues held him back. His 2019 season was supposed to be really promising, and the Indians still want to contend for the AL Central, because if not, then a rebuild will be on the horizon. If Kluber can’t have a good year, October baseball might not come to Cleveland for a while. 

  • The Nationals are going to have a sophomore slump. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not saying the Nats won’t make the playoffs, but considering the high hopes associated with Washington, I can’t imagine they’ll make it past the NLDS. With Rendon gone, the 2019 Nationals squad won’t be the same, mostly given the emotion he put into the game and provided to the clubhouse. 

  • The Yankees are going to set a new record for most wins. 

The current record is 116-46 by the 2001 Mariners. The team’s rotation is now Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Paxton and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. The Bronx Bombers still have the following guys as other options:

  • J.A. Happ (12-8, 4.91 ERA in 31 games)
  • A healthy Jordan Montgomery. The 26-year-old lefty is looking forward to a promising 2020 campaign. 
  • Domingo German, whose 2020 status is up in the air due to domestic violence allegations. 

The team could also call up Deivi Garcia, their top pitching prospect, to add bulk to the bottom of the rotation or the bullpen.The Yankees won 103 games with a heavily beaten-up roster, and now with the team healthy–all except Aaron Hicks, who is out because of Tommy John surgery, there is no ceiling for what this team can do, especially with their Iron Horse on the mound.