Had it all gone as planned, Gerrit Cole would be through his season-opening start, his Yankee Stadium debut and, this weekend, the righty would have been involved for the first time in The Rivalry.
Oh yeah, he also would already have banked about $9 million of his pitching-record contract.
Instead, Cole plays catch occasionally with manager Aaron Boone in the New York suburbs and waits to see if the coronavirus pandemic is conquered enough so that play can resume.
Amid the shutdown, there are pretty much no winners in the game. But there are degrees of loser.
Cole is losing a chunk — if not all — of his final season in his 20s. He is losing games when he will need that as he tries to make a second-half-of-his-career case for the Hall of Fame. He is losing money. He is losing the chance to establish himself in a new environment in the natural flow of a season.
Now, if the season returns, Cole will be forced to justify his pursuit and contract to a new fan base — one not exactly known for patience — in a condensed period having been thrown out of his normal rhythms (like all players).
So as I follow up on the Mets top 10 last Sunday, this week I tackle the Yankees who are losing the most during this shutdown, with their $324 million man at No. 1:
2. Aaron Boone — He had a club generally viewed as the best in the AL. The Red Sox talent base is down. The Astros’ talent is down because of the loss of Cole, and their morale should have been down because of the ramifications of the cheating scandal.
But in a season that might not have crowds, the Astros would not face the full wrath. And a shortened season might create more fickle results than the true talent of a squad like the Yankees shining over 162 games. Boone’s third season was projected to have his best team. For now, though, it is what third season?
3. DJ LeMahieu — All looming free agents are facing a reality that there could be a lot less money for them come the offseason. LeMahieu is losing the chance to show his age-30 season was no fluke and build his value higher for whatever money exists in the market. His basement was looking like Ben Zobrist’s four-year, $56 million pact, and his upside was maybe to push toward $100 million with his talent, versatility and rep as a gamer. Now what?
4. Brian Cashman — His clubs have been eliminated by two World Series winners (both tainted by sign-stealing scandals) and an AL pennant winner over the past three seasons. That concluded the 2010s with the Yankees completing a decade without a World Series appearance for the first time since the 1910s. He radically changed the coaching and training staffs after last season and pointed the team toward Cole. He is not getting a chance to see what he created and try to start the 2020s in a better way.
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5. Brett Gardner — He is missing his age-36 season. The Yanks brought him back because they thought he had something in the tank and his leadership was valuable. But when money could be tighter next year, do the Yankees bring Gardner back (he has a $10 million option for 2021 or $2.5 million buyout)? He doesn’t want to play anywhere else and is losing at least the chance to get one more shot with the Yankees.
6. Clint Frazier — The season was going to begin without Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, providing Frazier more major league at-bats to establish himself for either the Yankees or someone else. Now Stanton is ready to play and Judge is getting closer. There is expected to be expanded rosters if there is a season, but the at-bats could be harder to find for Frazier if the Yanks are closer to full health.
7. J.A. Happ — Spring training can be deceptive, but he was so sharp in exhibition games, seemingly ready to put a disappointing 2019 behind him. Now, his age-37 season is going unplayed, leaving him unable to showcase skills to compel the Yanks to pick up his $17 million option for next season or move another team to be ready to open its checkbook.
8. Miguel Andujar — As with Frazier, Andujar was going to be the beneficiary of early injuries to gain at-bats as he tries to recapture 2018.
9. Masahiro Tanaka — He is losing time in his walk year to make a case for himself. But he is not higher on this list because as long as Tanaka is healthy I suspect that somehow he and the Yankees will find a way back to each other.
10. Deivi Garcia — He would either be pitching for the Yankees or refining his craft to make himself more appealing to get promoted to the Yankees. Instead, that is on hold.
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