The Houston Astros, baseball’s most dominant team of 2019, had their season upended by the underdog Washington Nationals in the World Series. They’re also about to lose their best pitcher in free agency.
Gerrit Cole, half of the most dangerous starting pitching duo in the game (with Justin Verlander), is set to be a free agent this winter. Thanks to a career-year in Houston, he’s also about to become the highest paid pitcher since David Price signed a seven-year deal worth $217 million with the Red Sox in 2016.
Cole wasn’t just good this year, he was dominant. He set a career-best with his 2.50 ERA and topped the league in strikeouts (326) with a 20-5 record. He ended the season with wins in 16-consecutive decisions and is the frontrunner to win the AL Cy Young Award this winter. So why wouldn’t the Astros resign him?
I’m sure they want to and will be one of the many teams to extend the right-hander an offer in the offseason, but they may not have the capital to do so. It was estimated by one MLB executive and reported by SNY’s Andy Martino that Cole will command at least a seven-year deal in the range of $33 to $35 million, or $231 million.
The Astros took on the responsibility of Zack Grienke’s monstrous deal at the trade deadline ($35 million in 2020) and already have to pay Justin Verlander ($33 million), Jose Altuve ($29 million) and Alex Bregman ($13 million) large paychecks next season. I’m sure they want to lock up the 2017 World Series MVP, George Springer, and stud shortstop Carlos Correa to long-term deals as they prepare for arbitration. They also need to spend on their rotation and bullpen with 13 other players who were on the postseason roster heading into free agency and/or arbitration.
To Houston: pic.twitter.com/1gzVByOUWI
— Gerrit Cole (@GerritCole45) October 31, 2019
Cole has also all but said goodbye to Houston. Following the Game 7 loss, Cole was asked by an Astros official to talk to the media and responded, “I’m not employed by the team.” (as reported by the Associated Press and ESPN) He talked to reporters, but the Scott Boras representee rocked a Boras Corp. hat on his head. He also tweeted out a thank you note to Astros fans, seemingly saying goodbye to his home for the past two seasons.
But none of that answers the question of where he will sign. ESPN insider Buster Olney reported earlier in the season that the Los Angeles Angels will be front runners for Cole, and I tend to agree. It just makes sense.
Cole is a California native and played his high school ball just a rock’s throw away from Angel Stadium. They have the cap to do it too, with only six players signed through next season. It would be a big statement from the front office, pairing the AL’s top pitcher from 2019 with the Mike Trout, a two-time MVP. A big-time deal for Cole would pair the two for the long haul in an attempt not to waste Trout’s prime playing years.
The Angels will have some in-state competition, however, as the Dodgers could make a move for Cole. They have large sums of money locked up between Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Pollock, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen, and will more than likely want to extend Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Cole could slide into the hole Hyun Jin-Ryu will leave as he heads for free agency, leaving a big three of Cole, Kershaw and Walker Buehler that would easily be the best in the MLB.
The Yankees are never far from the conversation either and are in need of starting pitching. They did steal C.C. Sabathia away from the Dodgers by topping L.A.’s offer of $100 million by $60 million back in 2008. Money talks, and the Yankees are never afraid to dish out the big bucks when it matters. Maybe the Yankees finally get their guy after Cole opted to play college ball instead when the team drafted him in ‘08.
To be honest, any team looking to contend for a title in 2020 should be in on Cole. He’s that good. (Yes, I’m talking to you @Mets). He’s an undoubted ace and can elevate any pitching staff in the league, and starting pitching never goes out of style. Though it may be hard to sway him away from his hometown Angels (if they are indeed the frontrunners), he’s going to break the bank no matter where he signs.
Kevin Arnold is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @karnold98.