Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Brian Cashman gave Gerrit Cole the richest contract in pitching history, so it's no surprise that the Yankees GM believes his new ace is going to sparkle in his first season in pinstripes.
That's no rogue opinion. Cashman is far from the only one in baseball who is confident in Cole, the explosive righty who signed a $324 million deal during the offseason. In recent conversations with SNY.tv, opposing scouts and executives raved about Cole and it's clear that the rest of the industry believes the Yanks finally have the kind of rotation-topper who can dominate a season and in October.
"Now they got their No. 1 guy," said a longtime MLB scout. "No more excuses."
The scout added: "I've watched him for a long time. He has dominant stuff and he pitches with confidence. He's in the prime of his career. He's gotten his experience and now it's showtime.
"He got the big contract. He doesn't have to pitch for that, so he's just got to be Gerrit Cole and that's one of the best pitchers in baseball."
Cole, who won't even be 30 until September, was 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA for the Astros last year, finishing second in the American League Cy Young voting to teammate Justin Verlander. He struck out an MLB-best 326 batters in 212.1 innings and led the majors with 13.8 K/9, too.
Perhaps just as important to the Yankees, Cole was brilliant in the postseason, too, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts and holding opponents to a paltry .165 average.
"They should feel very confident that he'll be 'That Guy,' provided he's healthy," an opposing executive said. "He's going there from a Houston organization that finished him off as a pitcher, as far as analytics, and he'll be on a team that invests in that heavily, too.
"New York is a different animal, I know, but I expect him to be who they got him to be."
While Cole pitched under pressure in Houston, including the glare of the playoffs and World Series, some observers might think he's got to prove himself specifically in the New York fishbowl. Not everyone.
"People would have questions about Cole?" asked a second scout. "Really?"
While each of his starts will be parsed down to the very last breaking ball, Cole seems to be the kind of thoughtful hurler who might enjoy the pitching give-and-take.
"All the pressure, the New York media, I expect him to handle it," the first scout said. "You're going to be under the microscope, but I think he's built for it. He's been under pressure before, turning down the Yankees out of high school and then being the No. 1 overall draft pick, pitching in the Postseason.
"It's not like he's shied away from any of it. I really expect a big year from him."
The executive added a compliment for Scott Boras, the mega-agent who represents Cole. Boras, the executive said, certainly schooled Cole about any extras the Bronx might bring.
"He gets hammered for stuff, but Scott prepares his guys for what they're going into," the executive said.
The executive did suggest a potential wrinkle to Cole's year, however.
"I do believe in this: It does add additional pressure to him with (James) Paxton being out," the executive said. "When you have good pitchers following you, the questions for the rotation are spread out.
"But when you are the horse and other guys are not there and, if the three and four (starters) are struggling, you'll have to answer questions for the whole staff. That'll be new for him."
Still, Cole's talent and drive -- and his apparent fascination with a craft he's mastered about as well as anyone pitching today -- should bring big results. We'll see how deep into the nine-year contract that goes, but it's easy to be wildly optimistic about Year One.
"At the end of the contract, it probably won't look like the beginning of it, but that's the price you pay for someone like that," the executive said. "As long as he's healthy, there's no reason to expect him to be anything other than 'The Guy.'"
And that's why Cashman is eager to watch Cole this year.
"He's been a very special player in this sport," Cashman said in a telephone interview. "Instead of trying to find a way to compete against him, it's a huge addition to this staff to put him in front of the rotation to lead this thing.
"If he's everything he has been, he'll be pitching deep into games, taking the pressure off the bullpen and shutting down opposing teams. He takes pressure off our defense because he gets so many strikeouts.
"He's got a lot of amazing qualities. That's why he got the contract he got."