When an elite pitcher like Gerrit Cole breaks the bank with a mammoth $324 million contract that lasts nine years with a storied franchise like the Yankees, the reverberations will be felt for some time. That's starting now, as Cole's mammoth deal agreed to Tuesday night at the Winter Meetings changes the scope of the offseason and the season to come. Even though Cole has yet to be fitted for his pinstripes, already we can declare some "early returns" winners and losers from one of the biggest free-agent signings ever. Let's commence doing just that.

Winner: Gerrit Cole

No need to be contrarian here: Cole is the obvious winner. He's guaranteed $324 million, which is the largest contract ever for a pitcher by a wide margin. He's got a full no-trade clause, and none of the money is deferred. Coming into this winter, Cole had a bit more than $25 million in career earnings, and that's obviously "set for life" money. Now, though, he's into "set for generations" money. Think of it this way, if you like: 

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This is just INSANE.

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Cole's also going to be pitching for what profiles as one of the best teams in baseball, and the Yankees also happen to be his childhood favorite team. He'll be on the widest MLB stage and enjoy all the privileges and challenges that come with that. 

Winner: The Yankees

Genius for the obvious on display here. Yes, the Yankees paid premium rates for their "white whale," and they're now far into luxury tax territory. To that the proper response is: who bloody well cares? The point -- and it's a point that eludes too many owners these days -- is to win the World Series, and signing Cole improves the Yankees' chances in a notable way. They won 103 games last season despite an absurd run of injuries. They crapped out against the Astros in the ALCS, but now they're plucking Cole directly away from those Astros. 

Teams that win 103 games and outscore the opposition by 204 runs, which the Yankees did last season, necessarily don't have many glaring weaknesses. The Yankee rotation, though, was less than ideal. That's not longer the case. Have a gander at how it figures to line up going into 2020: 

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Luis Severino
  3. Masahiro Tanaka
  4. James Paxton
  5. J.A. Happ

Maybe Happ gets traded for some salary relief, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a championship-grade rotation. That's especially the case once you combine it with that deep, fire-breathing bullpen and an offense that paced the AL in runs scored. 

The Yankees are going to open the season as the prohibitive World Series favorites, and that's in part because they did what they needed to do to land the best pitcher to hit the market in a long time. 

Winner: Scott Boras

The new boss? If you meet him then you might recognize him as the old boss. To hear some tell it, the super-agent (and Cole's representative) lost his negotiating fastball over the tamped-down two offseasons prior to this one. Well, Boras landed Stephen Strasburg a $245 million pact with the Nationals, and now he's fetched $324 million for Cole. That's two clients and a total of more than half a billion bucks. Oh, and Boras still has Anthony Rendon on the market. He's still the best in the business. 

Loser: The Angels

The pressure mounts for the Angels to build a contending-caliber roster around superstar Mike Trout. Signing Cole -- which owner Arte Moreno and GM Billy Eppler badly wanted to do -- would've been a huge step in that direction. Alas and alack, the Angels, despite reportedly offering almost $300 million, weren't able to do it. 

They've got a new manager, and Moreno, after some years of retrenchment, was ready to spend once again. Last season the Angels were also saddled with one of the worst rotations in baseball. Simply put, no team needed Cole more than the Angels did. Yes, maybe they console themselves with Hyun-Jin Ryu or someone of that second tier, or maybe they even land Rendon. Given their roster weaknesses, however, no one would've moved the needle for them like Cole. 

Loser: The Dodgers

The Dodgers, like the Angels, are also linked to Rendon, so perhaps they salvage things by landing the other top free agent available. According to post-Cole reporting, though, the Dodgers are now focused on Madison Bumgarner. Right now, they'll be relying on Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, and most likely Tony Gonsolin to pin down the rotation after Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. That's not optimal, and that's why they're focused on adding another starter. Yet it's a significant drop-off from Cole to anyone else available. As well, the signing of a nine-figure guy like Bumgarner may make the Dodgers unwilling to pursue Rendon. In other words, it's either neglect the rotation for Rendon, or undertake something like a half-measure by the standards of a wealthy team with designs on the World Series. 

Loser: The Astros

Cole's old team entered the picture as one of two rumored mystery teams, but it never seemed likely. That's because owner Jim Crane, even though his team has been rolling, is pointlessly worried about staying under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. According to multiple reports, the Astros are even shopping star shortstop Carlos Correa in the name of payroll efficiency. The Astros are 100 percent in win-now mode, and the idea of trading Correa and not bidding vigorously to retain Cole should have fans calling Crane to account. Throw in the stench of the ongoing sign-stealing scandal, and the Astros are having a self-inflicted rough go of it.