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What if the Yankees had landed Ohtani or Cole?

Isaac Lopez

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Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton likely would not be in pinstripes had the Yankees gotten Shohei Ohtani. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Throughout the years, Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay has warned us numerous times about falling for what he calls “the fallacy of the predetermined outcome.” Often referenced after things go haywire for the Yankees in the wake of a questionable managerial decision, the Kayism is used to caution against automatically assuming that a different decision would’ve led to a more favorable result.

But… sometimes it’s just fun to think about.

If alternate realities are a real thing, then, assuredly, two exist where certain semi-foregone offseason conclusions came into fruition for the Bronx Bombers: one where current Astro Gerrit Cole is wearing a Yankee uniform, and one where two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani of the Angels is pitching (and hitting) in pinstripes. After all, one of their biggest needs was starting pitching — and with the Yankees’ rotation going through some early struggles, it’s slightly annoying on the surface to see both pitchers doing historically well with their respective teams.

But in order to get, one must give up. And whether the Yankees would be better off or worse off is certainly up for debate — who knows if Cole would be pitching to a 1.29 ERA or if Ohtani would be pulling off his two-way act with such success. But what’s a near certainty is that we’d be missing out on two potential major pieces of this young season.

The way Yankees general manager Brian Cashman envisioned using Ohtani is more or less the same way Cashman’s protégé, current Angels GM Billy Eppler, is utilizing the 23-year-old — a key piece of the starting rotation who also serves as a DH three-or-so times a week. And while the Yankees certainly tried their best to woo him into coming into the Bronx, Ohtani simply wasn’t having it, being adamant on his preference to stick to a lower-pressure atmosphere on the west coast.

But remember: one of the main reasons why the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton was because Ohtani spurned them. And not because Ohtani would’ve been expensive — on top of being paid the league minimum, and his $20 million posting fee would not have counted toward the luxury tax threshold the Yankees have been trying to get under for seemingly eons. Otherwise, he would’ve occupied the DH spot way too many times per week for there to not be a logjam. While Stanton’s been struggling over the first 22 contests, he’s been too good over his career to keep hovering around .200 over the next 140 games.

Now, let’s take a look at Cole.

There’s no other way to put it — he hasn’t been just good for the Astros. He’s been great. Like, really great. His lone loss this season so far came in a duel with the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs (quietly having a great season himself), in which the Houston righthander up only two runs, four hits and two walks over seven innings.

In order to get Cole from the Pirates, the Astros gave up a haul. However, what the Pirates initially wanted from the Yankees seemed to be so much more — Clint Frazier, who was just cleared for baseball activity after suffering a concussion during spring training, was reportedly part of the deal. But some reports also mentioned 23-year-old third baseman Miguel Andújar, who just doesn’t seem to stop hitting — to the point of cementing himself in the team’s record books alongside Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees 24 or younger to have seven consecutive games with an extra-base hit. When a player has done something – anything — to place his name alongside those two, it suddenly becomes very difficult to come up with a player not named Mike Trout or Bryce Harper that you’d want him traded for.

Hindsight is 20/20, but also hindsight is fantasy. Sure, it would’ve been nice on the surface to have had some additional rotation depth, and a rare two-way player would’ve made for some great must-see baseball. But the Yankees have more than enough depth in the farm system to make a mid-season pitching trade if need be. And now that the Yankees seem to be turning their underwhelming start around, they’ll also have more than enough happening on the field to have plenty of must-see baseball as well.

Isaac Lopez is a copywriter by day, Yankees writer by night. A lifelong New Yorker and daily drinker of way, way too much coffee, Isaac's work has appeared in publications such as Time Out New York and Resource Magazine. Like Dellin Betances, Isaac was also at Yankee Stadium for David Wells' perfect game. Unlike Dellin Betances, Isaac is only 5'10".

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