Astros: Predicting Gerrit Cole’s next team, contract
Keeping Cole in an Astros uniform is a worthy goal, and Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane should be putting forth every effort to make it happen. But when looking at the team’s payroll, I don’t see a legitimate way they can afford it.
With extensions for Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman kicking in, as well as arbitration raises for several key players including George Springer, Carlos Correa and Roberto Osuna, the Astros payroll for 2020 is projected to be hovering around $200 million — and that’s before filling any other holes. Both catchers are free agents, as are key relievers Will Harris and Joe Smith.
Paying Cole north of $30 million a year would push the team well over the $208 million luxury tax threshold, which Crane has stated he does not want to surpass. If they’re intent on keeping Cole, it would require trading both Josh Reddick and George Springer, in all likelihood. Reddick is probably gone regardless, but losing Springer may not be worth it.
As far as other teams go, there should be plenty of interest. In the National League, I would expect the Phillies and Nationals to have some interest, as the Phillies need pitching and the Nationals may lose Stephen Strasburg. Cole is from southern California, so I would not be surprised to see the Padres try and splurge on an ace to go with their strong young core. You also can’t count out the Dodgers with their seemingly endless resources.
In the AL, of course the Yankees will be in the mix, and I expect them to be there right until the end. They have a clear need and plenty of money (they’re the Yankees, after all). But the team I expect him to end up with is close to home for him and has the need and resources to get him. Unfortunately for the Astros, it’s the division rival Angels.
The Angels haven’t been able to field a strong pitching staff for years, and they lack a true ace. They also have the game’s best player, Mike Trout, locked up through 2030, but he’s only seen the postseason once. They have to be desperate to capitalize on his prime, and signing Cole would be a big step in that direction.
Plus, they’ve shown the propensity to give out mega contracts to players. They gave Trout north of $400 million, and they guaranteed $240 million to Albert Pujols, $125 million to Josh Hamilton and $75 million to C.J. Wilson. Owner Arte Moreno will open the pocketbook for the right player, and who better than Cole?
It puts him close to home and will of course make him the highest paid pitcher in the game. It’s true that he probably won’t win as much in Anaheim as he would in Houston, but the Angels giving Cole a fleet of Brinks trucks would at least show him they’re committed to winning. He’ll pair with Shohei Ohtani atop the team’s rotation and be backed by Trout and some other solid position players.
With Cole’s relative youth and impeccable track record, I think he easily surpasses David Price‘s record total guarantee for a pitcher. With the Yankees and others in the bidding, his price could soar well past that. In the end, I think the Angels outbid everyone and bring Cole home.