Following the 2024 season, no matter how it goes, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has the opportunity to opt out of his contract and explore the open market once again. The Yankees have a chance to cut off that exploration immediately, voiding his opt-out by adding an additional year to the end of his contract.
According to Cole's agent Scott Boras at the Winter Meetings, we should expect both of those things to happen in sequence.
The Yankees' pitching staff, while flush with depth in the upper minors, doesn't have anyone like Cole waiting in the wings or lined up behind him. Carlos Rodón has an excellent ceiling, but rarely showed it. Nestor Cortes Jr. battled shoulder ailments last season. Clarke Schmidt, a bulldog, is of a different caliber. Even if Cole takes a step back from his 2023 Cy Young campaign, he's still someone the team cannot afford to lose, especially due to an unforced error and a cost-cutting measure.
The Yankees seem to realize how crucial maximizing Cole's prime is, which would be true whether they intend to keep him for the rest of his career or not. They're attacking this offseason with ferocity rather than embodying fans' worst fears. But they could crash all that built-up goodwill next offseason if they decided to pinch pennies by declining to pay for Cole's age-39 campaign. Luckily, unless things change, Boras largely took this worry off the table on Wednesday, as so many other complex dealings swirled around Nashville.
Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole likely to opt out, return to team after 2024
You can list the Yankees' intriguing minor-league pitchers and young starters until you're blue in the face, but no matter how long you talk, you'll never get to another Gerrit Cole.
Will Cole's outright dominance continue through age 37? 35? Will he even be the same next year? No one knows, but even a regressing Cole is an essential part of this locker room's fabric and will belong atop the rotation for (likely) a half-decade. The Yankees are one of very few teams with the luxury of paying Cole now and asking questions later. If they chose to void the deal based on the far-reaching future, that would bring about the same critiques about their finances that they'd just quieted by going above and beyond in the Juan Soto talks. It would've been foolish to send Cole packing, sure, but ... could you really put it past Hal Steinbrenner?
Not this Hal Steinbrenner, apparently. Cole more than likely stays, and the Yankees wait patiently to see just how long his prime can last as they add pieces around him.