Free Agent Preview: Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole enters free agency as the most sought after starting pitcher on the market. After a season in which the Cy Young candidate posted career-highs in innings pitched (212.1 innings), wins (20) and strikeouts (326) as well as career-lows in ERA (2.50), batting average against (.186) and WHIP (0.89), Cole is expected to receive a record contract for his services as the ace of a pitching staff.

Since debuting with Pittsburgh in 2013, the former first overall pick has been among the most talented starting pitchers in baseball. His time with Pittsburgh came to a disappointing end for him. He had a 4.26 ERA and 4.08 FIP in 33 starts in his last season with the Pirates in 2017. Cole, however, reengerized his career with the Houston Astros, when the Pirates moved him to Houston during the 2018 off-season for starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, third baseman Colin Moran, reliever Michael Feliz and outfielder Jason Martin.

Houston Success

During his first season in Houston, Cole drastically lowered his ERA from 4.26 to 2.88. He increased his strikeouts from 196 to 276. In both of his seasons in Houston, he led all of baseball in strikeouts per nine innings with 12.4 in 2018, and 13.8 in 2019. He finished in the top five of the AL Cy Young voting in both years.

Cole is right in the prime of his career as he is currently only 29 years old. All of this is why the industry believes, according to Buster Olney, that Cole will sign a record-setting contract. The current record is David Price’s 7 year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox. One MLB executive estimated to SNY’s Andy Martino that Cole will find a contract of at least seven years and $33 million to $35 million annually. That would put the floor for a potential deal at $231 million.

Cole is expected to draw interest from large market teams. The west coast is where heavy speculation is, as he hails from Los Angeles. Speaking of Los Angeles, the Angels are the current favorite to land the starter. They desperately need pitching and have the money to afford the hometown kid.

Last season, the Angels used 19 different starters with 14 making five starts. No starter made more than 18 starts for the Angels last season.

Other contenders for Gerrit Cole include the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. He was offered the qualifying offer from the Astros, which he will more than likely decline, so any team signing Cole will have to forfeit a first-round draft pick, although that is unlikely to be a concern from any team signing the ace.

Author Twitter: @SentryCarney

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