Highest-paid Yankees have intriguing Hall of Fame cases: Sherman

Gerrit Cole’s $324 million contract is the most ever for a pitcher, and his $36 million average remains an MLB record. Aroldis Chapman’s $86 million pact represents the most given a reliever....

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Gerrit Cole’s $324 million contract is the most ever for a pitcher, and his $36 million average remains an MLB record. Aroldis Chapman’s $86 million pact represents the most given a reliever. Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal, once the largest ever, remains the sixth-most six-plus years after the signing.

The trio represent the highest-paid Yankees in 2021, and one reason the club rebounded from a moribund start is that those guys were earning their dollars — perhaps more. Cole, Chapman and Stanton are making $81 million this season, more than six teams based on Spotrac: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Miami, Tampa Bay and Seattle. As the one-quarter mark nears, they have been worth every penny to the Yankees.

Cole and Chapman, in fact, are trending toward their best seasons, and Stanton was having his healthiest season since 2018 — until he was pulled from the lineup Friday night with left quad tightness. It made me wonder how much the three are helping their Hall of Fame credentials and what those cases might look like:

Aroldis Chapman

Billy Wagner has been on the Hall ballot for six years, climbing from 10.5 percent his first try to 46.4 last year. If he can reach 75 percent and election, it would help Chapman. Because if you haven’t noticed, Chapman is basically having Wagner’s career — arguably a touch better.

Chapman and Wagner are the dominant lefty power relievers ever (yep, I see you in the distance Josh Hader) and they both have October issues.

Chapman is in his age-33 season, and his numbers stack up with Wagner’s through his age-33 campaign. Chapman went into the weekend with 578 appearances. Wagner had 584 through his age-33 season in 2005 for the Phillies, which might have been his best, and helped earn him a four-year, $43 million deal with the Mets. Chapman’s ERA plus was 188, Wagner’s 182. Chapman has held opponents to a .501 OPS, Wagner’s was .557. Chapman, in more of a strikeout age, has the highest strikeout rate ever at 41.6 percent (minimum 300 appearances). Wagner was at 33.5 percent through age 33. Chapman has 578 saves with plenty of time left in his age-33 season. Wagner finished his age-33 campaign with 584.

What are the chances Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole make the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Getty (2), AP

Wagner remained a force from age-34 on. In his final five seasons, Wagner registered a 2.11 ERA while striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings — and this included a mostly lost 2009 season after Tommy John surgery. Chapman is indicating he has plenty left with improved control, a fastball that still regularly peaks in triple digits and the addition of a split-finger fastball that has widened his repertoire and pitch-ability.

The bugaboos for both will be voter hesitation against relievers, notably because of total innings (Wagner finished with 903, Chapman currently has 562 ¹/₃), and the postseason. Wagner had a 10.13 ERA and three homers allowed in 14 playoff games. In 2006, then Mets manager Willie Randolph lost faith in his closer and left Aaron Heilman in to pitch a second inning, the ninth of a 1-1 game, and give up the NLCS Game 7 deciding two-run homer to Yadier Molina.

Chapman has a 2.40 ERA in 35 playoff games and also allowed three homers, but you know all three for their devastation: Rajai Davis’ two-run tying homer in World Series Game 7 in 2016 when Chapman was a Cub, and the homers by Jose Altuve and Mike Brosseau that eliminated the Yankees the past two years. However, the Cubs probably wouldn’t have won in 2016 without Chapman, who on fumes pitched a scoreless ninth after the Davis homer in the eighth. Plus, he still has more time to add (or subtract) from his résumé. He also has a suspension for violating MLB’s domestic abuse protocols on his ledger, and voters will have to decide what they think about that.

Gerrit Cole

Here is a thought exercise: If you could only bet on Cole or Jacob deGrom to make the Hall, which way would you go? They have arguably been the best two starters of the past four years, and that includes probably being 1-2 this season. DeGrom has been better in that time, with two Cy Youngs and one third-place in the NL, while Cole has finished fifth, second and fourth in the AL.

Though being more than two years younger than deGrom, Cole has more bulk accomplishment after starting younger in the majors. He also has been the healthier of the two pitchers. DeGrom has only been involved in one postseason, posting a 2.88 ERA in four starts. Cole is 2.68 in 13 playoff starts. Both candidacies would be helped by being the ace of a champion and by several more elite seasons.

Cole feels somewhat on a Max Scherzer trajectory. Scherzer was very good, then at 28 hit another gear that will likely get him to Cooperstown. Cole hit his better gear at 27 and now is in his age-30 season. Scherzer remains a force at 36. Can Cole sustain for the life of his nine-year contract through 2028 with the Yankees, which would be his age-37 season?

Stanton has a career 144 OPS-plus, 135 in three-plus Yankees seasons. Where does that Yankees total rank among those who played at least 225 games with the team? Glad you asked because it is one fascinating list with, no surprise, a top four of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. But did you know Charlie Keller was fifth? Aaron Judge is sixth. Would you believe Ron Bloomberg is eighth, Oscar Gamble is 10th and DJ LeMahieu is 11th?

Stanton was tied at 15th with one Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson, and one strong candidate. Yep, Sheffield.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Joel Sherman

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