Following Game Seven of the World Series, it sounds like Astros ace Gerrit Cole is on his way out.
Of all the decisions Astros manager AJ Hinch made in Game Seven of the World Series, his decision to not use a readily available Gerrit Cole is the one he’ll be second guessed on the most. Cole obviously wanted to pitch and was in the bullpen, even warming up a few times. But Hinch never called for him.
That Hinch had the planet’s best pitcher ready to go and didn’t use him seems wasteful, especially given the circumstances. With Cole now set for free agency, he may never don an Astros uniform again. Based on his postgame comments, it looks like his departure is all but certain.
Cole was initially reluctant to talk to reporters, telling an Astros spokesperson that he was “not an employee of the team” before eventually speaking “as a representative of [him]self.” Then he spoke about his time in Houston, using a bunch of past tense in the process.
What’s even more notable is Cole was wearing a Boras Corporation hat during his comments. He wasted no time in declaring himself a free agent and seems to have already moved on, which may only have been a foregone conclusion anyway with agent Scott Boras leading the way for him.
Would Have Been Tough
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For the Astros to bring Cole back, they would have had to either clear a bunch of salary or blow past the luxury tax threshold. Cole is going to command north of $30 million per year and will probably set a new record for the largest contract given to a pitcher.
The Astros already have around $156 million in committed money for 2020 when you factor in Zack Greinke‘s full salary. With projected arbitration salaries for guys like George Springer, Roberto Osuna, Carlos Correa and Brad Peacock, they’re already sitting in the $200 million range. Even if they trade Josh Reddick, signing Cole would still put them well over the $208 million luxury tax line.
And that doesn’t even factor in their other free agents. Key relievers Will Harris, Joe Smith and Hector Rondon are gone, as are both catchers in Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado. The Astros will need to find replacements or bring some of these guys back. Unless they plan on trading Springer, there’s really no way to fit Cole’s expected salary into the budget.
Still, trading for Cole is a move the Astros would undoubtedly make again. Over two seasons, Cole gave us 65 regular season starts with a 35-10 record, 2.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts. He also pitched some impressive games in the playoffs and may tack on a Cy Young Award as well.
It’s not as though losing Cole will destroy the Astros either. They still have Justin Verlander, Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. fronting next year’s rotation with Jose Urquidy in the mix and the possibility of a Forrest Whitley addition later in the year. This team will still be competitive, but it looks like Cole is going to get a lot of money from some other team.