Is Gerrit Cole holding up Yankees' trade for Juan Soto?

Who's in charge here?
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

Though Monday's Winter Meetings opening bell didn't bring a resolution to the Yankees' Juan Soto trade talks -- not even close -- it at least ushered in more optimism than when talks reached an impasse Friday night.

The two sides reportedly didn't talk over the weekend after the Yankees' balked at San Diego's ask of seven pitchers (and inclusion of Trent Grisham). We all assumed Brian Cashman leaked the proposal to get fans and media on his side, but the Yankees' head honcho expressed annoyance on Monday (via Andy Martino) that details of the package had reached the press. Either he's a great actor (he is not), or someone from the other side took action instead. Or maybe Randy Levine spilled the beans?

Either way, Cashman and AJ Preller seem poised to get back to work on finding a middle ground this week as San Diego's hopes of finding a new suitor have dwindled. As Ken Rosenthal wrote on Monday night, everything surrounding this conversation just feels like noise at this point. Both sides will realize sooner or later, he predicts, that a deal is in their best interest. Soon, the only question remaining will be just how far the Yankees will go in surrendering their pitching talent.

Michael King and Drew Thorpe have been reported non-starters in the early conversation, and it seems that someone outside the front office might be pulling those strings. According to Jon Heyman, Gerrit Cole's influence looms large in the team's attempts to keep King out of the deal. The converted reliever has two years of control remaining.

"It’s very hard to see them totally relenting on both pitchers — Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who has a big voice in the organization, is said to especially love King — so one side or the other would need to compromise or cave quite a bit to forge a quick deal."

Jon Heyman

Jon Heyman: Yankees' Gerrit Cole covets Michael King

There's nothing not to like about King, outside of the typical fears that surround any starting pitcher's workload. His transition to the rotation at the end of 2023 surprised many, but he over-delivered and wove his way into the middle of the Yankees' projected 2024 rotation with several masterpieces (his 13 Ks against the Blue Jays come to mind.

The right-hander's delivery is violent, though, and has already resulted in an atypical elbow fracture that ended his 2022 season prematurely. He can handle a starter's work, but can he handle a starter's workload for a full season? It doesn't take much film study to see what Cole and the Yankees see in him, but if King -- a 2025-26 free agent -- is the only thing standing between New York and a Soto deal, someone might have to intervene.

The pressure on the Yankees has been ratcheted up here, with the normally reserved Jack Curry going the extra mile on YES' Hot Stove show Monday, choosing not to mince a single word. "The Yankees know this is a move they have to make," Curry said bluntly -- and that means Cole gets it, too.

The final package likely won't include King, but ... never say never.