New Yankees pitcherGerrit Cole stands in Yankee Stadium after being...

New Yankees pitcherGerrit Cole stands in Yankee Stadium after being introduced at a press conference on Dec. 18, 2019. Credit: Corey Sipkin

John Smoltz considers the Yankees’ signing of pitcher Gerrit Cole a “defining franchise move” for the team, one designed to yield multiple championships in the coming years.

“I thought that was one of those, I don’t like using the term ‘once-in-a-lifetime moves,’ but it was a defining franchise move that has huge impact on the rest of the league,” the Hall of Fame pitcher and Fox and MLB Network analyst told Newsday in an interview to promote MLB Network’s announcement on Tuesday of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

"The Yankees were already a really good team, won over a hundred games and added the best pitcher in baseball as a free agent for nine years. It puts them in little bit of rarefied air when you think about what the next three years hold.”

Smoltz said there is urgency for the Yankees to win now before some of their young stars get prohibitively expensive.

“I don’t think there’s any way they can keep the players they have now longer,” he said. “You can’t keep them all together. You can’t pay them all. What they did was put themselves in a strong position for the next two out of three [years]. The Yankees obviously are known for championships and winning them in bunches, and I don’t think they made this move to just get one. I think they made this move to win multiple and get back into the fray of rings.”

Smoltz believes Cole has the makeup to handle the spotlight he is about to operate under. (The interview took place before this week’s developments in MLB’s sign-stealing scandal.)

“No doubt,” he said. “Everything about Gerrit Cole and everything that he’s gone through and what people will focus on is what he can contribute, which obviously his performance will dictate that. But it’s the impact he has with the rest of the pitchers, a lot of pressure is now off of them. How would you like to face [James] Paxton at three or [Luis] Severino at three or four in the rotation? That bodes well on paper.

“We had some of that when we were doing our thing [with the Braves] for the length that we did when there were three of us in the rotation that on paper it looked like that was hard to fathom losing a bunch of games in a row.”

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