Gerrit Cole’s agent clears the air on Yankees opt-out apprehensions
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The Yankees’ 2023 season will be best remembered for the Cy Young year of Gerrit Cole. However, the New York ace faces an intriguing contract scenario as the 2024 season concludes. While Yankees fans are apprehensive over his opt-out clause, his agent tries to address and clarify what is in store for the New York rotation leader.
Apprehensions over Gerrit Cole opting out fears
Having entered into a nine-year agreement worth $324 million before the 2020 season, Gerrit Cole is approaching the fifth year of his contract. Following the conclusion of the 2024 season, he can opt out of his contract, with four years and $144 million remaining. While Cole has the choice to opt-in and honor the existing contract, he also has the opportunity to opt-out, potentially seeking a more lucrative deal.
If he opts out, the team holds the authority to counter that decision and offer him a fifth remaining year at $36 million, effectively extending the contract to five years for a total of $180 million. The information was noted in a notebook by Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
“Gerrit Cole, the ace of the Yankees, possesses an opt-out clause in his contract following this season. However, the Yankees have the option to nullify this by adding a $36 million salary in 2029, thereby extending his total compensation to $360 million over a span of 10 years.“
A five-year contract valued at $180 million is undoubtedly substantial, and Gerrit Cole might find contentment in securing such a deal, potentially concluding his career in New York. However, there’s a chance he harbors a desire for an even more lucrative contract.
Another scenario could unfold where Gerrit Cole chooses to opt out, and the Yankees, in turn, do not present the additional deal, allowing him to enter free agency post the 2024 season. While having Gerrit Cole remain on the team would be their preference, the potential cost savings might create an opportunity to pursue locking up recently acquired Juan Soto.
It’s worth noting that Gerrit Cole boasted a remarkable 15-4 record last season, clinching the Cy Young in the American League.
He remains the mainstay of the Yankees
Gerrit Cole, the star pitcher for the Yankees, recently secured his first-ever Cy Young award through a unanimous vote last month, adding another notable achievement to his impressive career. On the other hand, the Yankees are eager to make a comeback to the playoffs following their 82-80 season in 2023. In a significant seven-player trade last week, the team sacrificed a considerable portion of its big-league-ready pitching depth to acquire Juan Soto and Trent Grisham, significantly reinforcing their lineup. However, this move amplifies their reliance on the 33-year-old Cole as they approach the 2024 season. While potential rebound performances from players like Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes could alleviate some of the pressure on Gerrit Cole, the prospect of success in the Bronx next year seems challenging without a repeat performance from the ace.
Placing confidence in Gerrit Cole emerges as a notably secure choice for the Yankees. Since his transfer from the Pirates to the Astros before the 2018 season, he has consistently ranked at or near the pinnacle of various pitching metrics. Over the past six seasons, his 28.5 fWAR stands as the highest among all MLB pitchers, and in terms of innings pitched, no hurler surpasses Gerrit Cole‘s impressive 1,076 2/3 frames. Among starting pitchers in this timeframe, Cole’s 2.93 ERA is only surpassed by Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler. Additionally, his 33.4% strikeout rate is second only to deGrom, Chris Sale, and Tyler Glasnow, while his 2.97 SIERA is bested solely by deGrom and Sale. This blend of dominance and durability firmly places Gerrit Cole among the elite starting pitchers in the current baseball landscape.
Entering the fifth year of his nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees, discussions are surfacing about Gerrit Cole’s opt-out option covering the final four years of his New York contract. While he would be venturing into free agency at 34, it appears highly likely that, unless the 2024 season proves disastrous, he could surpass the remaining four years and $144 million through a new deal in the open market. However, the dynamics of the contract extend beyond Gerrit Cole‘s unilateral control over the opt-out. In the event he chooses to activate it, the Yankees have the authority to nullify this decision by appending an additional year and $36 million to his existing contract. Essentially, this translates into offering a one-year, $36 million extension, elevating the overall value of his tenure in the Bronx to $360 million over ten years.
Agent Boras addresses the fears
Scott Boras, who serves as Gerrit Cole‘s agent, has expressed his expectation that the scenario will unfold precisely in this manner next year. According to a quote from Boras featured in USA Today by Bob Nightengale, he conveyed that both the ace exercising his opt-out and the Yankees annulling that decision are events he and Gerrit Cole “would anticipate” transpiring next offseason. This anticipation is reasonable, considering the high likelihood that the pitcher could secure a contract exceeding $144 million in the upcoming open market. However, for Gerrit Cole to embark on this opportunity to explore free agency, the Yankees must decide against retaining him under what essentially amounts to a five-year, $180 million contract.
Supposing that Gerrit Cole maintains a performance level similar to his recent standards in 2024, a contract of this nature would seem to align with an approximate fair market value for his contributions. Notably, Jacob deGrom secured a five-year, $185 million deal from the Rangers last winter as he entered his own age-35 season, despite a limited pitch count of 156 1/3 innings over the 2021-22 seasons. In contrast, Gerrit Cole has already surpassed this two-year innings total before even commencing the 2024 season. While the $36 million average annual value of the proposed contract stands as one of the more substantial yearly salaries in the league, it mirrors the current compensation structure for Gerrit Cole by the Yankees. Moreover, teams across the league have demonstrated a willingness to offer substantial annual salaries to elite starting pitchers, even as they age. Recent examples include the contracts signed by Scherzer and Verlander with the Mets over the past two offseasons, both featuring average annual values surpassing $40 million and covering periods into Scherzer’s late thirties and Verlander’s early forties.
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