NEW YORK (AP) — Gerrit Cole quickly ended Stephen Strasburg's tenure as baseball's highest-paid pitcher.
Cole agreed to a $324 million, nine-year contract with the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced.
Cole's deal established marks for pitchers in total dollars, topping the $245 million, seven-year contract Stephen Strasburg finalized a day earlier to remain with the World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Its $36 million average is a record for any player, beating the $35.5 million in outfielder Mike Trout's $426.5 million, 12-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels that started last season. Cole gets an even $36 million annually and can opt out after the 2024 season. He also has a full no-trade provision.
After finalizing the agreement for 31-year-old Strasburg, agent Scott Boras predicted he would go even high for Cole, a 29-year-old right-hander.
Cole was baseball's most dominant pitcher for much of 2019 and helped the Houston Astros come within one win of their second World Series title in three seasons.
"Obviously, when you are talking about a player at the level of Gerrit Cole, in a lot of ways that's a game-changing type talent," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said earlier in the day. “This is a guy that's really hungry, really driven."
Yankees general manager Cashman visited Cole and wife Amy in California last week, bringing along Boone, new pitching coach Matt Blake and special adviser Andy Pettitte.
After helping Houston beat the Yankees in a six-game AL Championship Series, Cole joins a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ or Domingo Germán, who may be suspended at the season's start under baseball's domestic violence policy.
Before finalizing Cole's deal, Boras held his usual metaphor-laden winter meetings news conference and said this offseason's uptick in the free agent market was a response to the fourth straight season of decreased major league attendance.
"I think a lot of clubs have seen the result of taking an academic approach in a competitive environment, and that has resulted in declines in attendance and lack of interest and unfulfilled expectations," he said. "Therefore, I believe they're returning more to a traditional approach, where they're going to go out and supplement their teams with known and veteran talent."
Even before the meetings, he negotiated a $64 million, four-year contract for infielder Mike Moustakas and Cincinnati. Boras also represents star third baseman Anthony Rendon, another of Washington's World Series champions who became a free agent,
"Major league teams sometimes are like birds," Boras said. “Some hummingbirds will buzz around and move through the process. There's probably sparrows who have a big desire to get something big that they can't quite carry the weight of it. Lately, there's a lot of owls, where they're kind of wise and mostly work at night in what they do, very thoughtful. Certainly we have a lot more hawks this year than the past, and probably the biggest concern is you don't want to be an ostrich and lay the biggest egg."
He went on to say "the Mets right now, they're maybe a bird of a different feather."
New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was amused.
"Yeah, we're more polar bears and squirrels," he said, referencing the nicknames for Mets All-Stars Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.