The Yankees landed the biggest prize of the free-agent market, adding Gerrit Cole to their rotation with a record $324 million, nine-year contract Tuesday night, a person familiar with the contract said.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
Cole’s deal established marks for pitchers in both total dollars and with its $36 million average salary, topping the $245 million, seven-year contract Stephen Strasburg finalized a day earlier to remain with the World Series champion Nationals.
Agent Scott Boras negotiated both deals.
A 29-year-old right-hander, Cole was baseball’s most dominant pitcher for much of last season and helped the Astros come one win shy of their second World Series title in three seasons.
New York has not won the World Series since 2009 and sought a top-line pitcher for a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ or Domingo German, who might be suspended at the season’s start under baseball’s domestic-violence policy.
General manager Brian Cashman executed the move out of his same playbook he used after the 2008 season, when he gave CC Sabathia a $161 million, seven-year deal to lead a staff and establish a clubhouse presence.
New York has a young core of hitters that includes Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez, entering a window when it thinks it can compete consistently for championships.
Cole was drafted by the Yankees in the first round with the 28th overall pick out of high school in 2008 but chose to go to UCLA, then was drafted first overall by Pittsburgh three years later. Traded after the 2017 season, he transformed his career in two seasons with the Astros.
He went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA last season as the Astros reached the World Series, finishing second to teammate Justin Verlander in AL Cy Young Award balloting.
In other moves on the second day of the winter meetings:
• Shortstop Didi Gregorius is joining manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia, agreeing with the Phillies on a $14 million, one-year contract, a source said.
• Outfielder Adam Jones and the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League agreed to an $8 million, two-year contract.
• The Twins finalized a $20 million, two-year contract with suspended pitcher Michael Pineda and a $4.25 million, one-year deal with catcher Alex Avila.
• Washington retained two more players from its championship team, finalizing a $10 million, two-year contract with catcher Yan Gomes and a $6.25 million, one-year contract with infielder Howie Kendrick, who had key hits in the postseason.
• Houston manager AJ Hinch said he couldn’t publicly answer questions about Major League Baseball’s investigation into allegations by former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers that Houston used electronics to steal signs in 2017.
Boras held his usual metaphor-laden winter-meetings news conference and said the 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 … talent.“
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