Could Be a Record
Cole may be in line for a contract well north of $200 million total, and could end up with the most expensive free agent contract ever given to a pitcher. That distinction currently goes to David Price, who signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox prior to the 2016 season.
However, Cole is about a year younger than Price was at the time he hit free agency. While he did have an excellent walk year, Price also struggled mightily in the postseason for Toronto. If Cole performs well in October, he has a clear argument to blow past Price’s total guarantee.
Another comp would be Max Scherzer. As with Price, Cole is about a year younger than Scherzer was when he got his seven-year, $210 million deal prior to the 2015 season. Scherzer was also coming off a pair of Top-5 Cy Young finishes leading up to his free agency.
The difference, of course, is that Scherzer has actually lived up to that contract and then some, with two Cy Young awards in his first four seasons there. Price, on the other hand, hasn’t quite given the Red Sox what they’d hoped for when they signed him.
Finally, another comp is Cole’s teammate Zack Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal that stands as the largest free agent contract by average annual value ($34.4 million). Greinke was 32 years old in the first year of that deal, but was also coming off a season in which he posted a ridiculous 1.66 ERA.
Given Cole’s age, he seems more likely to be given a contract of seven years or more, and thus could very well break Price’s total value record. It’s also possible, given how dominant he’s been over the past two seasons, that he gets close to or even breaks Greinke’s average annual value. Regardless, it will be a hefty investment for whichever team signs him.