Very few men in the world can create fire with their fingertips like Houston Astros starter Gerrit Cole can. In a few short weeks, he will be on the open market, free to sign with whoever he’d like.
Cole was the best pitcher in baseball this season and he could command upwards of $230 million in free agency, which would make him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history.
The California native balled out this season, posting an American League best 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts through 212.1 innings. Not only did he strikeout 39.9% of batters faced this year, he also posted a 5.9% walk rate. His WHIP finished at .89, the second-best in baseball and the lowest of his career by .2. The most glaring statistic arguably, is his 35% outside chase rate, the highest of his career, with just a 49.1%, the lowest of his career.
It will be easy for MLB general managers to shell out the cash for Cole. There is no one else in the league with his strikeout potential combined with his ability to get deep into games.
Now let’s see who could give him what he wants.
The Astros could potentially retain Cole this offseason, but they did boast the seventh-highest payroll in baseball this season, according to Spotrac. However, they are looking at a potential $20 million raise for Cole to re-sign him, plus arbitration raises for much of their young talent, including an estimated $8 million or so for George Springer.
Based on the financial costs of their under-contract roster for next season, I don’t see the Astros getting the chance to make a real run at Cole without major re-construction. The addition of Zack Greinke at the deadline this season was telling of president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow’s future plan, which seems like it doesn’t include Cole.
The New York Yankees have long been linked to Cole, since they first drafted him back in 2008 with their first round pick. He didn’t sign and went to UCLA with his *best friend* Trevor Bauer.
This off-season they are looking to make a splash, mainly to get past the Astros at this point. They had the third-highest payroll in the game this season, sitting around $218 million. They have Didi Gregorius coming off the books this offseason, unless they choose to re-sign him, considering his swing is made for the short porch in right field it would be smart to do so.
The Yankees need pitching, badly. They somehow won 103 games on the back of their injury-riddled offense, but sported a 4.31 team-ERA, which was good for 14th in the league. They just fired their pitching coach Larry Rothschild and could use a change in the clubhouse. Cole would be a perfect fit for them. He could completely turn around the pitching staff with his acquired knowledge from the Astros. He’s quite the savage.
Cole has also been linked to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who reside just miles away from where he grew up. They also have a dire need for pitching to go along with their solid offense. The Angels were one of seven teams with an ERA over five last season. They have no problem spending money either, shelling out a record $426.5 million contract for Mike Trout last year.
It would be an utter waste of talent if the Angels were unable to contend during Trout’s tenure. He is consistently the best player in baseball, and they need to surround him with players of the like.
Unfortunately, this team is still suffering from the loss of Tyler Skaggs, who died of an overdose in July. Nothing can ever fill the hole his death has created, but injecting Cole into this environment may help the team move on from this loss with the buzz it would generate in the city of Los Angeles.
After that, the waters are murky. It is quite unclear who else could fit with Cole. There are a few teams that could potentially make a run at him that are still rebuilding, like the Seattle Mariners, who are now without Felix Hernandez, the San Francisco Giants, the Washington Nationals, should Stephen Strasburg opt out or even the Cincinnati Reds – but they still have Trevor Bauer so it’s unlikely.
I think Cole either goes home to the Angels or decides to head to the NL East with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies just added Bryce Harper last offseason and a new manager in Joe Girardi this offseason. They have a ton of offensive potential and just need to put it together on the mound.
They are far from the three-headed monster the Phillies once had in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but a rotation of Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and a different Cole could terrorize the division.
Cole may just be the investment necessary to bring a ring to Philadelphia. Now it’s time to wait and see.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.