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Angels

For Gerrit Cole, Yankees were most direct path to a World Series title

Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning in Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park on Oct. 27 in Washington, DC.
Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning in Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park on Oct. 27 in Washington.
(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Scott Boras, the agent for pitcher Gerrit Cole, said the highly coveted right-hander gave “very strong consideration” to signing with the Angels before agreeing to a record nine-year, $324-million deal with the New York Yankees last Tuesday night.

The Angels didn’t necessarily fall short because their offer to Cole, for eight years and just under $300 million, was shy in years and dollars to what the Yankees gave the former Orange Lutheran High and UCLA standout.

The Yankees, Boras said, offered a more direct path toward a World Series trophy than the Angels, who reached the playoffs once this decade and have not won a playoff game since 2009. The Yankees have reached the playoffs 21 times — and won five World Series — in the past 25 years.

“Gerrit Cole was raised in Orange County and had very substantial childhood ties to this franchise,” Boras said at Saturday’s news conference to announce the Angels’ signing of third baseman Anthony Rendon, another Boras client, to a seven-year, $245-million deal. “The meetings we had with the Angels were great.

Angels owner Arte Moreno is a baseball aficionado who had long been aware of Anthony Rendon’s talent. Striking a quick free-agent deal made sense.
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“It really came down to a decision about world championship play. He and [wife] Amy’s primary goal was to win a world championship. In the end, he had to make a very difficult decision, but in his mind, that pursuit of those world championships was something that was in the forefront of his final decision.”

A failed bid for Cole did not hinder the Angels’ pursuit of Rendon, whose lethal bat and Gold Glove-caliber defense were key to the Washington Nationals’ run to the World Series title in October.

Angels owner Arte Moreno, general manager Billy Eppler and several team executives had a lengthy meeting with Boras on Sunday, Dec. 8, the day before the winter meetings started in San Diego, to discuss top Boras clients such as Cole, pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel and Rendon.

After the larger group meeting, Moreno pulled Boras aside and told the agent that, despite the Angels’ glaring need for a top-of-the-rotation starter, he was “really focused on Rendon,” that the slugger “was a high priority for us.”

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Boras, who is based in Newport Beach, has known Moreno for almost two decades and has worked with him on several high-level negotiations for players such as Mark Teixeira, Adrian Beltre and Jered Weaver. The owner’s comments came as something of a surprise.

“Arte didn’t say, ‘If I can’t do A, I want to do B.’ ” Boras said. “He said Rendon was a priority.”

Rendon, who was joined at Saturday’s news conference by his pregnant wife, Amanda, and 1-year-old daughter, Emma, said Moreno’s message was clear.

“That means so much to me and my family to have that respect, to feel wanted, to want someone to come and be part of your family,” Rendon said. “That was the one important thing we always talked about when looking for an organization we wanted to head to or stay at, was a family atmosphere, somewhere we can plant our roots, build a foundation and just grow our family together.”

By Monday morning, Boras had hammered out Strasburg’s seven-year, $245-million deal to return to the Nationals.

“Everybody thought Cole would sign first, but that wasn’t really my strategy,” Boras said. “I had Stras sign first and then got the flow of what teams wanted to do with Gerrit.”

By Tuesday night, the Yankees had locked down Cole, beating out the Dodgers and Angels, among others, for the American League Cy Young Award runner-up.

The Angels quickly pivoted to Rendon, but they were not starting negotiations from scratch. They had discussed the parameters of the deal Rendon agreed to roughly 24 hours after the Cole signing broke.

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“That’s one of the primary elements of roster construction — if you’re not flexible, you can find yourself left out in the cold,” Eppler said. “We identified a few players we felt brought a lot of certainty and impact in this market, and Anthony was clearly one of those players.

At a news conference introducing him as an Angel, Anthony Rendon says he appreciated the Dodgers’ interest, but the team to the south was a better fit.

“When news came that one of the pitchers we identified was potentially going in a different direction, we didn’t hesitate. If one of the impact players [you’ve identified] comes off, and then another comes off, you’d better move.”

Rendon agreed to a back-loaded contract, which includes a $4-million signing bonus and salaries of $25.5 million in 2020 and $27.5 million 2021. His salary will jump to $36 million in 2022 and $38 million each year from 2023-2026.

Rendon, 29, hit .319 with a 1.010 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 34 homers, 44 doubles and a major league-high 126 RBIs for the Nationals this past season. He hit .299 with a .912 OPS, 103 homers, 167 doubles and 403 RBIs over the past four seasons. He plays Gold Glove-caliber defense.

“It’s an exciting day,” Eppler said. “It’s not every day that you’re able to add an impact player to your team. Anthony is a premier hitter. Stays inside the strike zone, as evidenced by his ability to get on base.

“Makes contact, has power to all fields, and judging by the volume of text messages I got from our pitching staff, his defense is pretty well-regarded. This is an infield- and lineup-altering moment for our team.”


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