Gerrit Cole’s looming opt-out is sure to be a matter of public speculation this offseason, considering that 2024 could be his final year as a Yankee. So why not ask the man himself about it, rather than try to guess?
“I’m just not going to comment on it,” Cole told SNY — extremely politely — after another sterling performance in Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Detroit.
At the risk of over-analyzing a no comment, there are a number of ways a player can go when presented with this question. In spring training of 2022, Jacob deGrom stated unequivocally that he planned to opt out of his Mets contract at the end of that season.
This spring, I asked Max Scherzer about his opt-out, and he gave a more nuanced answer.
“You have to understand the context of why I negotiated that in, and the context of where we’re at now,” Scherzer said then. “I wanted to pursue a championship in that third year. And that’s where an opt-out, to me, made sense. But obviously, Steve [Cohen] has demonstrated that we’re going to be trying to win the World Series. We’re gonna do whatever it takes to win.
“But when I’m stepping in, I’ve gotta have that insurance, because talk is cheap, right? You’ve got to see the proof in the pudding, and we have now seen what Steve has done.
“I knew Jake had an out. It was, if Jake opts out, you didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t know where the Mets would be as an organization. A big draw for me to come to New York was to get the chance to pitch with him, and here he has an opt-out in year one. If he did take it and go somewhere else, what is the organization going to do? I got an answer [Scherzer later opted in after the Mets traded him to Texas].”
It’s within that menu of options, then — a quick, definitive answer like deGrom, a lengthy analysis like Scherzer, and a no comment — that Cole chose not to engage the issue publicly. At least now we know how he’s handling the question.
One thing is certain: If Cole, 33, continues to perform at the level he has since signing a nine-year, $324 million deal in late 2020, he will be in line for another lucrative free agent deal.
On Tuesday, he again showed why he is a true ace. On a night when he had not induced a single whiff on his four-seam fastball, Cole somehow found 98 miles per hour on his 104th and final pitch of the night, striking out Javier Baez with a go-ahead run on base and preserving a 1-1 tie.
Where, I asked Cole, did he get that fastball on a muggy night when he was already gassed?
“I was saving it,” he said, smiling.
It was but one example of why the American League Cy Young Award is his to lose.
Cole’s opt-out is not as straightforward as deGrom’s and Scherzer’s. If he exercises it after next season, the Yankees could void it by adding a tenth year at $36 million. That would be Cole’s age-38 season.