Gerrit Cole of the Yankees looks on against the Boston...

Gerrit Cole of the Yankees looks on against the Boston Red Sox during the American League Wild Card game at Fenway Park on October 5, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Winslow Townson

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Scott Boras acknowledged what Gerrit Cole and the Yankees – at least in public – did not.

The ace righthander wasn’t the same after asking out of his Sept. 7 start against Toronto in the fourth inning when he felt discomfort in his left hamstring.

"Once he popped that hamstring a bit, it really, obviously … just look at his numbers," Boras, who is Cole's agent, said Wednesday, speaking at the annual general managers meetings. "It had an impact on him and he did his best to fight through it."

Cole finished 2021, his second year with the Yankees after Boras negotiated a nine-year, $324-million contract in December 2019, 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 30 starts. But it was a bizarre season in a variety of ways for the righthander. There was his blistering start – 6-2 with a 1.78 ERA after his first 11 outings – followed by a regression that coincided with Major League Baseball signaling its intent to enforce the on-the-books rules regarding the application of sticky substances to baseballs (Cole went 2-2 with a 5.24 ERA in six starts after the that became public in early June). Then there was an eight-game surge from July 10-Sept. 1 in which Cole went 6-2 with a 2.34 ERA but, after coming out of the Toronto game – having allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits over 3 2/3 innings – he posted a 6.35 ERA in his final four regular-season starts. That performance trickled over into the AL wild-card game against the Red Sox when Cole allowed three runs and four hits over two innings of the 6-2 loss.

Not surprisingly, Cole did not use his hamstring as an alibi at any point.

"At the end of the season, we are all going through and wearing whatever we've had to overcome to get to this point," Cole said after the loss, asked specifically if the hamstring affected him down the stretch and into the postseason. "You know, the other team is dealing with the same kind of situation. So when it's all said and done, I didn't perform the way I wanted to perform."

Oddly, in regard enforcing the sticky stuff rules and the impact it might have had on Cole, Boras said "the reality of it is his performance." Which, as the numbers showed, at least in those six starts, were not good (Cole’s eight-game resurgence began with his complete-game 1-0 victory over the Astros July 10, arguably his best outing of the season).

Boras, as is usual, has some of the top free agents on the market this winter, including a handful who could be of interest to the Yankees. Among those general manager Brian Cashman has checked in on in the early going are shortstops Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Max Scherzer, just to name a few.

"They're always very communicative, very prepared, and very much understanding of what their needs, are no question," Boras said of the Yankees.

The always colorful Boras took it from there when asked specifically about the Yankees and for Semien and Seager.

"I think when you have Semien and Seager on the market, these people have character that is so understood by teams because of who they are, what they've achieved and what they've done," Boras said before going all-in on pun-mode. "In Marcus' case, he kind of brings a charge in the batter's box and he kind of insulates the middle infield, so he's truly a modern day Semien conductor and we all know there's a shortage of chips worldwide so you can imagine the people that come."

Boras switched to music, and rocker Bob Seger, in discussing Seager, a two-time All-Star and World Series winner with the Dodgers.

"When you think about Seager…the Seagers (or Seger) are used to being on big stages. And they have many hits. And you can think like, all those Hollywood nights and postseason MVPs … Frankly, he’s a guy that everybody knows. He’s like a rock. Of course, his parents knew this. That’s why they named him Corey."

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