Yankees can report straight to the World Series with Gerrit Cole addition

by Editorial Team

The Yankees’ $324 million signing of Gerrit Cole was like taking a sledgehammer to the overall landscape of baseball. Come hell or high money, Hal Steinbrenner was determined to destroy any and all opposition to the Yankees winning the World Series and restoring their place of dominance in the game.

Think about this: Last year — without Cole at the top of their rotation — the Yankees won 103 games despite setting a a major league record with 30 different players going on the injured list, losing a total of 1,149 days to injuries, 600-plus more than any other team in baseball. The Bombers were in first place in the American League East from June 15 to the end of the season. At the same time the Yankees have added one of the top three pitchers in baseball to a team that came within two games of going to the World Series. Meanwhile, their potential prime challengers in the American League, particularly Houston and Tampa Bay, have already been weakened. In the National League, the world champion Nationals are scrambling to fill the loss of Anthony Rendon, their best player; the 105-win Dodgers — despite their Yankee-like wealth — have struck out all over the place in their efforts to land a frontline starting pitcher or a middle-of-the-order bat, and the 97-win Braves are looking at the possible loss of their No. 2 OPS man, Josh Donaldson.

On paper anyway, there appears to be no team close to the Yankees as far as overall talent and depth. Just as there is likely to be no team close to their projected $245 million payroll.

Let’s start with the AL East where last year the Yankees were never seriously challenged after June, finishing seven games ahead of the surprising 96-win Rays. So far this winter, the Rays, who seem determined not to exceed last year’s 29th lowest payroll in baseball ($50M), shed two of their most popular players in the clubhouse, Travis d’Arnaud, who they allowed to leave as a free agent to the Braves (for two years/$16M), and Tommy Pham, who they traded to the Padres for Hunter Renfroe. Pham led the Rays in on-base pct. (.369) as opposed to Renfroe, who hit 33 homers but also struck out 154 times with a .289 OBP. With the signing of Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the Rays are obviously intent on improving their power game, but it’s hard to see how they’re any better, especially when they’re also turning their catching duties back over to Mike Zunino, who strikes out as much or more than Renfroe, and was by far the worst hitter in baseball last year.

Combine the Rays’ underwhelming offseason so far with the Red Sox’s intent on shedding payroll, shopping David Price, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez and even Mookie Betts, and the Blue Jays and Orioles in continual tank mode, this Yankee team — especially if it’s a relatively healthy Yankee team in 2020 — figures to stampede in the AL East.

There won’t be much in the way of challengers in the AL Central either. Before being swept by the Yankees in the AL Division Series, the Twins won 101 games last year, largely because they played in the weakest division in baseball. They’re still in dire need of an impact starting pitcher, like so many other would-be contenders who couldn’t afford Cole. The team to watch in the Central is the White Sox, who spent $73M on All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal and will be further strengthened up the middle with the arrival of uber-prospect center fielder Luis Robert. But they, too, desperately need quality starting pitching which, after the re-location of Cole, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner signings, is suddenly in very short supply.

Over in the West, there’s no telling what’s in store for the defending AL champion Astros with the cheating scandal hanging over their heads, other than the fact they’ll be hard pressed to come close to a fourth straight 100-win season now that Cole’s 20 have been subtracted. This could open the door for Billy Beane’s A’s, who somehow won 97 games last year without the benefit of a 100-RBI man or a starting pitcher (excluding the suspended Frankie Montas) with an ERA under 3.80. But we all know the A’s are not going to be adding any impact (i.e. expensive) players between now and Opening Day. What you see here is what you get and while they’ll be competitive — they always are — the A’s remain a far cry from the Yankees in terms of overall talent.

All of which means the Yankees can report directly to the World Series.

As for the National League, none of the elite, potential World Series teams, the Nationals, Dodgers, Braves or Cardinals, are presently better. Depending on where Donaldson lands, the Nationals and Braves are looking at tremendous holes in the middle of their lineups. If either one signs him, that changes the NL dynamic considerably. The Braves made significant improvements with the signings of d’Arnaud and closer Will Smith but that won’t be enough to offset the loss of Donaldson’s production at third base. The Nationals’ re-signing of Stephen Strasburg to keep their deep and formidable rotation intact will be wasted if they do not adequately replace Rendon’s impact middle-of-the-order bat. And if I’m the Yankees, I’m not too worried about the Dodgers, especially after beating them out for Cole and watching them also strike out on Rendon, Corey Kluber and Bumgarner. The Dodgers are said to still be dickering with the Indians about Francisco Lindor and we’re not sure why. He’s a nice player, but he isn’t going to put them over the top the way a front line elite starting pitcher like Cole would have.

READ FROM SOURCE: https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-gerrit-cole-steinbrenner-world-series-madden-20191221-onxi5mscg5bypbercuyexcorbe-story.html

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