SAN DIEGO — In the hours before the world knew Gerrit Cole was heading to The Bronx, an executive for an AL East team essentially surrendered the division. The Yankees, he assessed, were winning it with or without the addition of the ace.
Of course, 162 games full of twists, turns and injured-list stints awaits. But the assessment spoke to the projected strength of the Yankees roster, which only was upgraded with Cole.
What didn’t kill them made them AL East champs in 2019 and stronger for 2020. They won 103 games essentially without Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. In their place, Gio Urshela, Domingo German and Mike Tauchman blossomed. The Yanks should have all of those players in 2020 (albeit with a suspension looming for German). And, oh yeah, they also have Cole, who Oakland manager Bob Melvin described “as the best in the game.”
Hal Steinbrenner authorized the signing despite being uncomfortable that in conjunction with the eventual reunion with Brett Gardner, the Yankees — at least for now — would be projected about $10 million over the highest luxury-tax threshold of $248 million. Steinbrenner approved Cole because he favors…