Gerrit Cole, arguably the most dominant pitcher over the past two years, is set to hit the open market this Winter. With a massive payday awaiting him, and several suitors desperate for his services, Cole will have a tough decision regarding where he wants to pitch for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at some of his options.
Gerrit Cole, 2019 Highlights.
The Most Dominant Pitcher on the Planet. pic.twitter.com/3RKKj0Gyhy
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 4, 2019
After being traded to H-town two years ago, Cole morphed into an entirely different beast. As touched on here, the Astros were able to take Cole to new heights, turning him from a good pitcher to an elite one. The incumbent always seems to have an advantage when going for big free agents, but Cole resigning with Houston seems like a long shot at this point.
About a month ago, Astros owner Jim Crane seemed hesitant when asked about the prospects of re-signing Cole, most likely due to luxury tax concerns.
“We’ll see where we end up after the year. We may make a run at it. We’re not sure yet. We’re going to wait and see what else unfolds and who else is going to stay on the team,” Crane said.
Assuming Houston is indeed insistent on staying under the luxury tax line, retaining Gerrit Cole would be a very tight squeeze financially.
Additionally, the quote above does not inspire any vote of confidence for Cole staying in Houston, already seemingly having moved on. Cole’s chances of resigning seem to be fading away.
Los Angeles Angels
Having grown up in Newport Beach and attended college at UCLA, a Southern California team seems likely — although he’s maintained that he’s open to any team. The Angels in particular seem to stand out due to their deep pockets and eagerness to build a contender around Mike Trout. Their rotation has some bright spots with Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, and a returning Shohei Ohtani, but could use a true ace to round the unproven group out.
Despite the Angels’ struggles over the years they have no plans on rebuilding, and with Billy Eppler possibly on the hot seat and Arte Moreno’s willingness to spend, Cole to Anaheim seems to be the favorite at this point.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have plenty of money to spend while still not paying the luxury tax, yet seem unlikely to give Cole a big payday. While it would make sense given his assumed desire to play close to home and the Dodgers need for a true playoff ace, Andrew Friedman has never been one to shell out massive long year contracts, especially to pitchers. This logistically seems like a great fit for both sides, but track record takes precedent and the Dodgers have a history of showing interest in marquee free agents, but never paying the big bucks when push comes to shove.
Will the Dopdgers finally spend big money this off-season and put Gerrit Cole in Dodger blue?https://t.co/nnqZ6Y8jbF
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 3, 2019
Maybe Andrew Friedman and ownership will reverse course, but it would be rather surprising to see them go against their MO here.
New York Yankees
The Yankees will always be attached to big name free agents, and certainly have an abundance of money to shell out to Cole. That being said, ever since the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Brian Cashman has seemed to shy away from making any splash moves. He was outbid on Manny Machado last off-season, refused to trade for any starting pitching this past trade deadline, and there is nothing to suggest any traction between the two sides.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were reportedly in on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper all the way to the finish line last off-season, indicating a willingness to spend. That being said, the White Sox are still not a contender even with Cole, and that will most likely be a deterrent for him.
The Phillies are in win-now mode and could use an ace to pair with Aaron Nola to bolster their lackluster rotation, but after spending big on Bryce Harper a year ago, and with plenty of other holes on the roster, this landing spot seems unlikely.
The Nationals are almost guaranteed to spend big this off-season, and in the rare event that both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg go elsewhere, ownership could follow up winning the regular season by winning the off-season. However, their own free agents will probably take priority.
Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves
These five teams are seen more as Hail Mary’s than long shots, but worth mentioning due to their financial flexibility and/or precedent of spending big. Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 off-season was seen as a shock, so Cole could very well pull a surprise out of his hat as well.
In the coming weeks, rumors will surface regarding who the serious suitors are and we should have it narrowed down to three or four clubs mid-December. Essentially every team in the league could use rotation help, hence why Cole’s landing spot is so hard to predict. It will ultimately come down to whose owner is willing to spend the most, and possibly exceed the forbidden luxury tax line. Regardless of the contract, whoever is lucky enough to sign Cole will be getting one of the best pitchers in the league.