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Astros: Predicting Gerrit Cole’s next team, contract

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros reacts after retiring the side in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros reacts after retiring the side in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros is interviewed in the locker room following his teams 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros is interviewed in the locker room following his teams 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Karen Watson

Gerrit Cole is arguably the very best pitcher in the game coming out of 2019 and entering the offseason. Earlier in the season, comments made by him led all to believe it was a given that he wanted to test free agency to see what was on the other side.

After a season yielding 107 wins in the regular season and 10 more postseason wins for the Astros, it seems to me that he may be having some second thoughts because, after all, winning is fun. And while there are a couple of teams that do have that winning ability, few have the winning mentality of the Astros.

He and his wife have made Houston their home for the past two years, and both have made comments in recent interviews that seem to indicate they’d be happy to stay here. From friends in his teammates to those in their wives and girlfriends, neither one seems like they would be hard to convince to stay in H-Town.

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Putting all of this aside, can the Astros realistically pull this off? The payroll commitments coming up in the next few years are seemingly insurmountable, starting with this being the first year that they will cover all of Justin Verlander‘s salary. When it comes to avoiding the luxury tax thresholds, some creative moves would most definitely have to be made in order to make room for what Cole will most certainly command and arguably deserves.

He is likely to become one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game, especially if money is his driving factor. And while no one faults him his justly earned payday, a lot hinges on whether or not Cole would be willing to compromise with the Astros in order to stay. A lot also hinges on which teams actually seriously pursue him, and it stands to reason that a fair number of them will. Already, rumors are the Yankees and the Angels are the two most interested.

Assumptions in the media have been made that he would like to stay in the California area close to home. But he has recently been quoted as saying that he never said that was his desire. Because of this and the recent interviews clarifying his misconstrued post-Game Seven comments, I think it is a safe bet that he is open to negotiating with the Astros.

As the Astros strive to make it all work, there are a lot of moves that could be made that would make it possible to sign him. Arguably, though, these would be very controversial and many think highly unlikely.

Personally, I think the Astros will come up with a creative way to keep him. If he is even remotely interested in staying in H-Town and continuing to play with a team that has one of the best cultures in baseball, I think he will be willing to get creative along with the front office in order to figure out something that works for both sides.

Like I said, there are very creative ways this could happen, but I don’t want to be responsible for starting any rumors. Considering the ways it could work, moves would include unpopular trades and perhaps some form of signing bonus and/or deferred salary on the back end of a contract offer.

Reading between the lines, I really think that both Cole and the Astros want this relationship to continue. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to make the numbers work for both sides. I truly believe the Astros will compete to keep him and I am optimistic that he will be wearing the orange and blue in 2020.

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One thing is for sure — Cole is looking at a very large payday. The questions still remain: What would he be willing to accept? What can the Astros creatively afford? He’s worth upwards of $198 million for six years, which some teams can easily afford. Is Cole willing to compromise a bit to stay where he admittedly loves to play, and could they possibly come to terms somewhere in the middle?

Prediction: Astros — Four years, $120 million with an option for two more years at $75 million

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