Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Since the beginning of the offseason, the Yankees have made Gerrit Cole their top free agent target, without knowing if Cole wants to play closer to his West Coast roots.
While many in the industry believe that Cole prefers California, the Yankees don't have any information to that effect from the agent, Scott Boras, or the player. They are left to prepare to meet with Cole this week, as The Athletic first reported they would.
According to people familiar with the Yankees' thinking, the team is trying to balance the Cole pursuit with engagement in at least two other free agent starting pitchers, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler. They see flaws and concerns with both, but they see upside, too, and will stay engaged.
There's no question that the Yankees want Cole most -- Manny Machado, this is not -- but the front office also doesn't want to find itself losing a game of musical chairs while waiting for their top target.
The timing of this could be tricky. Wheeler is already meeting in person with multiple teams, per Major League sources, so his free agency is moving more quickly than Cole's.
What if Wheeler has offers in hand and is ready to sign this month, but Cole hasn't decided? Do the Yankees take the plunge on Wheeler, and blow their Cole money? Or do they pass on Wheeler, and risk missing on both of them?
Same goes for Bumgarner, who intrigues at least some Yankee people. What if the opportunity to sign him comes before Cole is ready to choose?
This is the balancing act that that Brian Cashman and his staff are engaged in right now. It's not unique to this offseason; free agency is usually a difficult exercise in timing.
But the Yankees want Cole more than they've wanted a top free agent in years, so this year's game of musical chairs comes with more pressure and drama.