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Yankees' meetings with Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg a 'healthy part of the process,' GM says

On Friday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman practiced rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford CT, for Sunday’s Heights & Lights program.  (Credit: Howard Simmons)

STAMFORD, Conn. — As Brian Cashman rappelled down the side of One Landmark Square on Friday, he spotted a piece of paper posted in the window of one of the offices in the 22-story downtown tower, with a message in large bold print: “Please sign Gerrit Cole.”

The 8.5-by-11-inch sheet spoke for a fan base, and it sort of spoke for Cashman, too. Except his version would say: Gerrit Cole, please sign.

The Yankees are trying, the general manager said. His early December itinerary gained an extra transcontinental round trip this week when he led a contingent of club officials to Southern California for meetings with this offseason’s top free-agent pitchers, Cole and Stephen Strasburg.

Cashman described those chats — with Cole and his wife, Amy, on Tuesday and with Strasburg on Wednesday — as “a good, healthy part of the process.” Also present were assistant GM Michael Fishman, manager Aaron Boone, new pitching coach Matt Blake and special adviser to the GM Andy Pettitte.

He declined to say whether the Yankees scheduled additional visits with either righthander during the winter meetings, which begin Sunday in San Diego.

“It was a good opportunity to meet some amazing competitors that we’ve seen do great things from afar,” Cashman said shortly after dawn Friday, before practice rappels that were part of his annual participation in Stamford’s Heights & Lights holiday event, which will be held Sunday evening. “Got a chance to give them an opportunity to get to know us and we got a chance to get to know them a lot better too.

“It was an important part of the process for them. It sounds like they’ve met with many teams, and obviously I can’t predict the future and the timing of their future. Only they really control that.”

Both pitchers are represented by agent Scott Boras, and it will take a significant — and perhaps record-breaking, especially in Cole’s case — amount of money to sign either one. The largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher is the seven-year, $217 million deal David Price got from the Red Sox before the 2016 season.

Getting together with Cole, 29, believed to be the Yankees’ top target, was particularly useful for Cashman, he said, because they really hadn’t met previously. When the team drafted Cole out of high school in 2008 — he passed on signing with them to go to UCLA — vice president of domestic amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer and his staff got to know him. The GM? Not so much.

“In my case, that was a real first sit-down where I got a chance to know Gerrit Cole,” Cashman said. “Both people [Cole and Strasburg] are very impressive people. Not surprising why they’re successful. You see the ability, but when you get a chance to know the makeup a lot better and the people, again, they’re going to be very productive members of any organization. We’ll see what happens.”

Cole and Strasburg both are from Southern California. The Dodgers and Angels are among the teams interested in Cole, who has pitched for the Pirates and Astros.  Strasburg, 31, has spent his entire professional career with the Nationals, who are trying to retain him.

Asked if the Yankees are at a geographical disadvantage in these cases, Cashman said he doesn't know, but he talked up the opportunity the Yankees present.

“Ultimately, like all players in free agency, they want to gauge the pure landscape and all the opportunities that really exist,” Cashman said. “They’re going to give whatever weight to location, league, team, teammates that they want to give.

“The Yankees have a lot to offer. I like to think this is a place that, if you love playing the game of baseball and you want to be in a competitive environment, I think those ingredients should put us on anybody’s list of places to be interested in and considering. At the very least, we qualify for that.”

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