MLB: A Massive Contract Isn’t the Only Prize Gerrit Cole Got From the Yankees

Gerrit Cole was the biggest name and most sought-after player in free agency this season, and he got the big payday he was expecting from a team with a history of shelling out big bucks to land free agents. The Yankees gave him the richest contract in MLB history for a pitcher, but that wasn’t all the team with the most World Series titles gave their new ace, who they’re counting on to get them back to the World Series for the first time in a decade. They also gave Cole a “30 pound-ish contraption.” What was that contraption, and how is it significant to Cole?

Gerrit Cole’s pre-Astros career

The Yankees first tried to get Cole right out of high school, drafting him in the first round (No. 28 overall) of the 2008 draft, but he decided to attend UCLA instead of signing with the Yankees.

When Cole re-entered the draft in 2011, the Pirates took him with the first overall pick. He spent five seasons with the Pirates, going 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA and 734 strikeouts in 782-1/3 innings. He dealt with some injury issues during his time with the Pirates, starting more than 30 games just twice in his five years with the team. The Pirates traded him to the Astros before the 2018 season, and that was when his career really took off.

Finding success with the Astros

In his two seasons with the Astros, Gerrit Cole went 35-10 in 65 regular-season starts and lowered his ERA by more than three-quarters of a run from when he was in Pittsburgh, bringing it down to 2.68. 

But perhaps Cole’s most impressive stat with the Astros was the 602 strikeouts he compiled in just 412-2/3 innings in just two seasons. He put up career-best numbers in 2019, throwing 212-1/3 innings in 33 starts with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts — surpassing his previous career-high, which he set in 2018, by 50. 

Despite the impressive numbers he put up last season, Cole could not win the American League Cy Young Award, finishing second to Astros teammate Justin Verlander in 2019; he finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2018.

Gerrit Cole’s contract with the Yankees

The millions of dollars are nice, but the contract wasn't the only thing that brought Gerrit Cole to the Yankees.
New Yankees ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. | Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole picked am excellent time to have a career year, as he entered free agency this offseason. Some people thought the Southern California native might sign with the Angels or Dodgers, but instead, he went across the country and signed with the Yankees, which was the team he rooted for as a kid

The Yankees signed him to a nine-year, $324 million contract with an opt-out after the 2024 season. But if he exercises his opt-out clause, the Yankees can void the option and add a 10th year to Cole’s contract at $36 million. If that happens, it would make it a 10-year, $360 million deal. But the contract wasn’t all the Yankees gave Cole.

An impressive contraption might have swayed Cole

They also gave him what the New York Post’s Joel Sherman describes as a “30-pound-ish contraption.” Sherman calls it one of the team’s “favorite toys,” which the Yankees use to help land free agents. 

Sherman continues describing the contraption as being “shaped like home plate with a giant interlocking ‘NY’ that, when opened, reveals a facsimile of Yankee Stadium.” In the middle of the mini-Yankee Stadium is an iPad that answers pretty much any question you could have about the franchise, including the best places for players to live. 

The thoroughness of the presentation impressed Cole and his wife, according to Sherman. The extravagant item may have been what put Cole over the edge in deciding to sign with the Yankees.