The New York Yankees don’t have much to complain about right now. They’re 33-15, which ranks them 1st in the AL and 2nd in the entire MLB. Aaron Judge is having another MVP caliber season and Giancarlo Stanton is quietly hitting .285 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI’s. But something that goes under the radar is Gerrit Cole’s contract. After the 2019 season, Cole decided to leave the Houston Astros, who had just lost in the World Series to the Washington Nationals, for the New York Yankees. The contract was 9 years, $324 million, which averages out to about $36 million dollars per year. Is he overpaid?
Cole signed his contract after he had a 2.50 ERA, which led the MLB, and was one of the main reasons why the Astors made it to the World Series. At the time, it didn’t seem bad at all for the Yankees to sign him to the deal they signed him to. However, looking back at it, that didn’t make sense. Cole hadn’t had a season with a below 2.88 ERA before 2019 since 2015! Assuming Cole was going to keep up the pace he was at was unrealistic.
Let me get this clear. Cole is the last thing from a bad pitcher. He does some things that puts New York in a great position to succeed. And then there are times where he doesn’t. So far this season, Cole has a 3.12 ERA in 10 games. He has a 4-1 record with 15 walks and 20 earned runs (and total runs when he’s in the game) allowed. I think that is a borderline all star—maybe even worse. Is that worth $36 million?
The crazy thing is, it isn’t unrealistic that Cole has this ERA. From his 1st all star season in 2015 until his final season with the Astors, he had an average of a 3.15 ERA, which is very similar to what he has had with the Yankees in 3 (2 unfinished) seasons which is a 3.12 ERA. But, while it’s the Yankees stupidity that signed him to this deal, it still doesn’t take away the fact that he can be overpaid.
Let’s compare him to other great pitchers and see what their stats look like:
Jacob deGrom is one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in baseball right now when healthy. Despite not playing this season so far due to injury, he is still considered an amazing pitcher because of how he played last season. Before getting hurt in early July, he played 15 games with a 1.08 ERA and 7-2 record. That ERA may not mean much since it was only in 15 games. But if you take the average of the ERA leaders, ERA since Cole’s 2019 season, you get an average of a 2.32 ERA. If you add deGrom’s 2021 ERA to that numbers, and divide it by 2 (the average), you get a 1.70 ERA, which would be our estimated ERA for deGrom if he finished the season. That is still much better than Cole’s ERA.
He only allowed 11 walks and 40 hits. Just to let you know, that is not even 3 hits allowed per game! A crazy stat to describe deGrom’s season last year is; there were 14 runs scored when he pitched and only 11 of them were earned runs against him—the other 3 being runs not due to his pitching abilities!
So, now seeing how good deGrom is, what do you think his contract is? Probably about an average of over $40 million…right? No! deGrom’s highest paid season in his 4 year contract is worth $33.5 million, while Cole’s highest paid season on his contract is $36 million!
You guys are going to say “But what about Shoehei Ohtani and his 3.45 ERA? He’s apparently going to sign the biggest contract extension in the history of the MLB. Is he going to be overpaid too?” Well, he also is a batter and and hit 46 home runs last season. Now, I guess you never know if Ohtani is going to be overpaid, considering he has only had 1 amazing season, with other mediocre ones. But I don’t expect that to happen to Ohtani, since he bats and pitches and it would be shocking to see him fall off dramatically at both.
So, is Gerrit Cole overpaid…yes! But I don’t think it’s entirely Cole’s fault. The Yankees expected someone who was the best pitcher for 1 season, to be the best for most seasons with the amount of money they paid him. But that was unrealistic. Cole is just doing what he usually has done for his entire career. His career ERA is 3.20. That is 0.08 more than what he has now. Where Cole ranks and if he will bounce back to his 2019 self is a different conversation. But as of right now, at this current moment, Cole is overpaid…because of the Yankees!
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