Right after the New York Yankees blew out the Minnesota Twins 14-1 on Monday night, they went out and made a trade with the Washington Nationals to help add to their bullpen depth. The Bronx Bombers acquired right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole for cash considerations. With that move, they designated David Hale for assignment after he pitched two shutout innings in relief:
TRADE: The Yankees have acquired RHP A.J. Cole from the Nationals in exchange for cash considerations. Cole has been added to the 40-man roster and will be added to the 25-man roster. RHP David Hale was designated for assignment.
— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) April 24, 2018
Over the course of Cole’s four-year career in the big leagues, he is 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA in 26 games (19 starts). With the Nats this season, he was 1-1 with a 13.06 ERA in four games (two starts) and gave up six home runs. This includes giving up ten runs in his first start of the season back on April 3. The 26-year-old was designated for assignment on April 20.
For the Yankees, they need arms to help out in the bullpen with Tommy Kahnle, Adam Warren, and Luis Cessa all on the 10-day disabled list. Cole can fill in as a reliever in the middle innings and he did a decent job doing that role for the Nats last September, albeit in a small sample size (three runs allowed in 7.2 innings, but they all came in one outing).
The problem for Cole during his career has been that he has a tough time locating the strike zone on a consistent basis. His walk rate went up last season from 3.3 in 2016 to 4.7. When you add that to the fact that he doesn’t record many strikeouts (7.6 per nine innings last year), that can bring up a lot of long innings.
When you look at Cole’s arsenal, he has four pitches. He has a fastball that averages 92.1 miles-per-hour (according to FanGraphs) as well as a slider, curveball, and changeup. The key for the Yankees might be to have him use the curveball a little less and to go with the slider. According to Brooks Baseball, teams had a .196 average against that pitch last year with 16 strikeouts and three extra-base hits (one home run).
For Cole, this is a chance for him to have a fresh start with another organization. He was selected in the Fourth Round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Nats. In December 2011, he was traded to the Oakland A’s in a deal that sent Gio Gonzalez to D.C. Over two years later (January 2013), Cole came back to the Nationals in a three-team deal with Seattle and Oakland.
Cole can fill two different roles with the Yankees. He can either be used in the middle innings or he could be a spot starter if someone gets injured. New York has that role filled already with Domingo German, but Cole has versatility in which innings he can pitch in. The question for him is going to be whether or not he can be consistent in the Bronx.
When you take a look at this deal, the Yankees don’t have anything to lose as they hope that Cole can bounce back after a rocky start to 2018. Whatever role Cole ends up having with the Yankees, the command of his pitches is going to be a key as to whether or not he succeeds or fails.