When Yankee officials arrive in San Diego for next week’s winter meetings, they will be viewed in a different light regarding free-agent right-hander Gerrit Cole than they were two weeks ago.
That’s when highly respected industry sources said they would be “shocked’’ if the 29-year-old Cole signed with the Yankees.
Now, after meeting with GM Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone and new pitching coach Matt Blake in Orange County, Calif., on Tuesday, the Yankees are considered to have a serious shot at signing Cole.
Whether or not that happens, the Yankees have to believe their chances of getting Cole are greater than they are of landing fellow right-handed free agent Stephen Strasburg.
The same Yankees’ trio that sat down with Cole, an Orange County native, visited with Strasburg, who is from the San Diego area and attended San Diego State, on Wednesday.
Because and Strasburg are both represented by Scott Boras, it made sense to pitch the Yankees’ history and what the New York market offers to each, but the feeling throughout baseball is that Strasburg, 31, will eventually rejoin the Nationals, whom he helped win this past season’s World Series when he was named MVP.
Strasburg has never pitched for an organization other than the Nationals, who took him with the first pick in the 2009 draft, so there is a deep relationship there. Since Cole was taken by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008, spurned them for UCLA, was the first pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates and pitched for the Astros the past two years, he doesn’t have those same roots that Strasburg has in D.C.
While plenty of people have speculated Cole would opt to work in California, those words haven’t come from Cole’s mouth publicly.
The Post also confirmed a report that Cole indicated location won’t be a major factor in his decision.
Cole, who went 32-10 with a 2.68 ERA in 65 starts for the Astros the past two seasons, could command upward of $250 million — and that could increase should the Dodgers and Angels believe he is the final piece to a championship. Of course, the Dodgers are ahead of their Southern California neighbor in that regard even with Mike Trout in center field.
Yet, Cashman and crew didn’t fly 6,000 miles roundtrip without knowing what it will take to finally put Cole in pinstripes and atop a rotation that would go from solid to deluxe with him fronting it.
Earlier this week on YES Network, Hal Steinbrenner didn’t shy away from a free-agent contract that would likely push the Yankees over the third and highest level ($248 million) of the luxury-tax penalty.
“Let me just say all options are open as far as I am concerned,’’ the managing general partner said when asked about the free-agent market. “Anything that rolls across my desk I am going to be looking at real seriously. We are going to be active in the free-agent market.’’
That interest won’t be limited to the mound.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius, reliever Dellin Betances, catcher Austin Romine and outfielder Brett Gardner remain on the market. Only Gardner, the longest tenured Yankee, is considered a strong candidate to remain the club.
The Yankees are engaged with Gregorius, Betances and Romine, but so are other clubs. The Phillies are interested in Romine and Gregorius and have discussed Betances.