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Astros: Why this may be Gerrit Cole’s last season in Houston

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 14: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros delivers the pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 14, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 14: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros delivers the pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game Two of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 14, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Astros may be losing their co-ace to free agency after the 2019 season.

Amid the flurry of extensions the Astros inked with key players this month, one soon-to-be free agent was noticeably missing. Gerrit Cole is in the final year of team control but appears to be entering the season without a new contract.

There’s no overstating how good Cole was last season, finishing fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. At just 28 years of age, there’s a good chance he has at least a few more seasons of top-notch production ahead of him. So why won’t the Astros open up the checkbook for him?

There are a number of reasons, of course, as this is a multilayered decision. Here are some reasons why Cole may be wearing a different uniform in 2020.

His Agent

The infamous Scott Boras represents Cole, which makes it unlikely he signs an extension before reaching free agency. Boras is known to try to maximize his clients’ pay, so Cole may very well look for the biggest deal available. And there may be a few to choose from.

The Yankees are losing CC Sabathia to retirement. The Angels, after committing to Mike Trout, could finally decide to acquire an ace. The Phillies may want rotation help behind Aaron Nola. The Dodgers might become spenders again. Any of these teams could pony up the money Boras wants and might be more motivated to do so than the Astros.

True, Boras’ approach didn’t work so well for Dallas Keuchel this past offseason. But in spite of the supposed downturn in spending, top free agent starter Patrick Corbin got $140 million over six years. Cole will be about the same age and have a healthier history, provided he avoids the injury bug in 2019. With another good season, he could top Corbin’s guarantee.

Too Rich for Astros

Despite all the money the front office has just handed out, the Astros may not be in a position to spend big bucks on Cole. They’re committing big dollars to Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and a handful of others in 2020, and $25-$30 million for Cole could blow them past the luxury tax threshold.

It’s true that Collin McHugh and Wade Miley are also free agents after the season. And if losing Cole meant suddenly becoming a mediocre team, Jim Crane might just break the bank. But it won’t, which goes into probably the biggest reason why Cole may leave.

Astros Have Depth to Withstand the Loss

Verlander will be atop the rotation in 2020, presumably joined by the return of Lance McCullers Jr. Brad Peacock may be in the mix as well. Even if the Astros don’t add anyone via free agency or trade, there is plenty of promising talent waiting in the wings, many of whom could find their way to Houston in 2019.

Top prospect Forrest Whitley could essentially take Cole’s place as the No. 2 behind Verlander. He impressed in Spring Training and, barring injury, could be a full-go for 2020. Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas (who also impressed) could join him, as both will likely make their way to Triple-A this year, if not the majors.

The Astros also have Josh James and Framber Valdez, each of whom already has major league experience and should be in the rotation mix in 2020. Rogelio Armenteros and Brady Rodgers are on hand as well. With all that depth in the form of cheap young talent, and considering the money already allocated to other players, it may not make sense to outbid other teams for Cole.

So enjoy watching Cole in Houston for one more season, Astros fans. It just may be the last one.

dark. Next. Astros: Opening day 25-man roster announced

***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***

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