As hot stove season really starts heating up, teams are falling over themselves to land Gerrit Cole. After another dominating year in 2019, leading the Astros to the World Series, he looks set for new pastures, but where is the best landing spot for the former Astros starter?
Boasting an amazing 35-10 record over the last two seasons, and a 2.68 ERA in 65 starts, Cole is set to smash the record contract for a pitcher. David Prices $217m seven-year deal with the Red Sox is the current high-water mark and one that doesn’t seem to be discouraging his suitors.
New York Yankees
After assembling one of the best hitting teams in recent memory, and with a payroll already bulging at the seams, the Yankees are the clear favourite in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes.
New York always has the big city appeal and heavy media attention that always appeals to big players. But probably most important for Cole is that the Yankees want to win, and they want to win now. With a good balance of young players and experienced veterans, adding Cole will elevate the Yankees to World Series favourites.
Joining James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, JA Happ and co. will almost certainly appeal. And let’s not forget the Yankees won 103 games last season whilst scoring the most runs in the league. So if they add the premier pitching talent of Cole this team would be scary good.
Los Angeles Dodgers
After back-to-back world series appearances, both losses, the Dodgers curtailed their spending somewhat last off-season. That will not be the case this season. With Hyun-Jin Ryu likely gone, Clayton Kershaw not his usual dominant self, and Rich Hill still struggling to get on the mound, Walker Buehler is arguably the peak of their long-term talent.
For a team that won 106 games, it’s an amazing situation to find them in. Despite these long-distance issues with pitching, they are solidly set up for next season…if they land Gerrit Cole. Make no mistake though, the Dodgers see this as the way to anchor their rotation for years to come.
One of the keys for Cole is the staff that he will be working with, and his ability to continue to improve as a pitcher. This is where the Dodgers have an edge. Clayton Kershaw is one of only 4 pitchers to be paid more than $200m in a contract, and he has been at the pinnacle of pitching for the last 5 years. There’s no doubt the Dodgers know how to develop their pitchers.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels clearly have the worst of the current pitching staffs, with Tommy John recovering Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning as the leaders on the mound. And all of these pitchers come with serious questions.
Canning’s rookie season was disappointing, but his potential upside is undeniable. Heaney once had the same high upside, but his career ERA still sits in the 4’s. The Ohtani sideshow has died down somewhat as he only hit last year while recovering from TJ surgery. But if he tries to be a two-way player again that could explode on him.
The Angels are also in the AL West, a full 35 games behind the Astros, and that may be a concern for Cole. The Astros are still a young team with long-term potential, depending on the outcome of the current MLB investigation which could blow them up.
Of the three favourites, Anaheim definitely has the most questions, but they also potentially have a major selling point. Gerrit Cole grew up just five miles from the Angels stadium. Think that’s unimportant? Cole was originally drafted by the Yankees, but Cole decided not to sign and stay home and play college ball instead, turning down an alleged $4 million signing bonus.
So where will Gerrit Cole sign? The good news is that things are moving on apace and it doesn’t look like this will drag on like the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sagas of last season. Owing to his love of California, and his desire to develop and compete for a world series, he’ll likely sign with the Dodgers. But you can never completely count the Yankees out and they are pursuing him very hard.
One thing that is certain, Gerrit Cole will become only the 5th pitcher to sign a $200m+ contract. Most likely in the $275m range to make him the highest-paid pitcher ever. At just 29, we haven’t seen the best of Cole yet and that’s the main reason this contract could end up being even larger than some are predicting.