The Yankees have acquired right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole from the Nationals in exchange for cash considerations, per a club announcement on Monday night.
Cole, 26, was a highly-regarded prospect in the Nationals organization for a long while, climbing as high as No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s rankings of the team’s top prospects in 2014 and remaining in the top 10 until his rookie status expired last year. He was never really able to carve out a full-time role in a rotation that has consistently been stocked with proven veterans, though; he received big-league action as an injury replacement for each of the past three years but clearly didn’t do enough to force himself into the organization’s long-term plans. With Cole out of options this spring, the Nationals gave him his best shot yet at carving out a role, and he beat out Edwin Jackson and Jeremy Hellickson for the fifth spot in the Opening Day rotation. But after allowing 12 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks over nine innings in his first two starts, Cole lost his rotation spot to Hellickson. He went on to pitch in two games out of the bullpen, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk over 1.1 innings, before being designated for assigment by the Nationals last Friday.
Jordan Montgomery, the only Yankees starter who’d seem to be at risk of losing a rotation spot if a more proven alternative came along, seems unlikely to yield his spot to Cole right now, as he’s posted a solid 3.80 ERA over his first four starts. That means Cole will likely initially pitch out of the Yankees’ bullpen, though he’ll provide solid rotation depth if any of the existing starting five go down. With Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Sonny Gray all having significant durability concerns, that depth is a good thing for New York to have.
Right-handed pitcher David Hale was designated for assignment to clear room for Cole on the Yankees’ 40-man roster.