Arguably the two best starting pitchers this past season have already ignited the Hot Stove this offseason. Stephen Strasburg kicked things off reuniting with the reigning champion, Washington Nationals. Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that the value of his deal was a record-setting $245 million. The Nationals signed Strasburg for seven years as well. That deal surpasses the previous high for a pitcher’s contract, set by David Price when he signed a seven-year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. The following day, Gerrit Cole and the Yankees have agreed to a record nine-year, $324 million contract. Cole can opt-out of his contract after five years.
“We are very excited to welcome Stephen Strasburg and his family back to the Washington Nationals,” Nationals owner Mark D. Lerner said in a statement. “His tremendous talent, work ethic, and leadership have been a staple of our organization since the day we selected him in the 2009 MLB Draft. We would not have won the 2019 World Series or accomplished everything we have these last 10 seasons if not for Stephen’s many contributions.” Strasburg, who opted out of the final four years of his contract with the Nationals, entering free agency off a career-high 18 wins which led the National League. In addition, the 31-year-old right-hander won two games against the Astros in the World Series, including a pivotal Game 6 on the road in which he became the first pitcher to go at least eight innings in a World Series start since Matt Harvey did so in Game 5 in 2015. The following night, Washington won Game 7 and Strasburg became the first No. 1 overall draft pick to be named World Series MVP.
Cole was drafted by the Yankees out of high school with the 28th pick in the first round in 2008, but he chose to go to UCLA. Then he was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates three years later. He finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2015 and earned the first of his three All-Star selections that season, but he was less effective in his other four seasons in Pittsburgh. After five seasons with the Pirates, Cole was traded to the Astros in January 2018. Cole grew up a Yankees fan and attended several games at the old Yankee Stadium. He said before Game 3 of the ALCS that his favorite players were Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. New York has not won the World Series since 2009 and sought an ace to head a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Domingo German, who might be suspended at the season’s start under baseball’s domestic violence policy. Cashman executed the move out of the same playbook he used after the 2008 season when he gave CC Sabathia a $161 million, seven-year deal to lead a staff and establish a clubhouse presence. Cole will join a competitive Yankees team with a young core of hitters that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez. The Yankees are now the favorites to win the 2020 World Series as they have entered a window in which they can compete consistently for championships.
Although there have already been a few headlined moves this early into free agency, there is still more to come. Baseball fans are on their feet with excitement to see what else is to come this offseason. These two moves make fans excited for the 2020 season to come just months out. We will see how well Cole succeeds the Yankees pitching staff and if Strasburg remains a dominant force in the NL East.