It is, as one executive from a National League team noted, “like asking someone to choose between Ali and Tyson in their primes.”
That didn’t stop The Post from asking, though. With New York now the workplace for both Jacob deGrom, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, and Gerrit Cole, who placed a close second (to Astros teammate Justin Verlander) in last year’s American League Cy Young voting, we surveyed 32 baseball operations people — a mix of front-office and field staff who currently work for teams other than the Yankees or Mets — with this query:
If you could have either Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom for the 2020 season, at identical salaries, which ace would you choose and why?
With many sharing the aforementioned NL official’s sentiment that either would do just fine, thanks, Cole ultimately prevailed by a 19-13 margin.
Why? Here’s what we heard from our respondents, on the condition of anonymity:
In support of Cole
1. His AL experience. Five voters cited Cole’s past two years of success with the Astros in what is widely regarded as the superior offensive league.
2. His stuff. As one manager said, “I’m taking Cole based on the swings he gets.” An executive noted Cole’s effectiveness against lefty hitters, whom he has held to a career .662 OPS and .592 last year. DeGrom’s matching numbers: .676 and .619.
3. His age. Cole starts his nine-year, $324-million contract with the Yankees as an age-29 commodity (he turns 30 in September). DeGrom — in the second season of a five-year, $137.5-million deal with the Mets — will turn 32 in June.
4. His statistics. Specifically, his strikeouts. Cole fanned 602 batters in 412 ²/₃ innings (and another 64 in 49 ²/₃ postseason innings) during his two campaigns with the Astros. DeGrom totaled 524 Ks over 421 innings in his two Cy Young seasons.
5. His Octobers. Cole’s recent playoff success in Houston loomed large for many of his advocates, all of whom made sure to note that deGrom deserved no blame for his lack of postseason experience since he put up a 2.88 ERA in four starts during the Mets’ 2015 pennant-winning run.
In support of deGrom
1. His athleticism. Four from this group cited the college shortstop deGrom’s natural skills as an athlete — which manifest themselves in his ability to repeat his delivery, make his pitches, field his position and even hit to support his own cause.
2. His New York experience. Now starting his seventh big league season, all with the Mets, deGrom has proven beyond doubt his ability to thrive under the Big Apple microscope. Cole gets his chance to prove that this season.
3. His stuff. This issue divided our panel more than any other, showing that the beauty of a pitcher’s stuff can be in the eye of the beholder. As one coach said of deGrom, “All our hitters say deGrom is the nastiest.”
4. His non-Octobers. One clever executive chose deGrom because he did not pitch in last year’s playoffs, therefore giving him more rest for the campaign to come. Yes, it’s that close of a call.