Gerrit Cole lived up to expectations as the No. 1 draft pick over five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his stardom and reputation has taken a considerable step forward since being traded to the Houston Astros.
That’s held particularly true this season, which was the second of back-to-back All-Star Game selections for the right-hander. Cole’s success in 2019 has come at an opportune time as he’s due to reach free agency this winter.
At minimum, the 29-year-old will be one of the two more sought after pitchers on the open market along with Hyun-Jin Ryu. They may be joined by Stephen Strasburg, who can opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million on his contract with the Washington Nationals.
While the Dodgers figure to have interest in re-signing Ryu, they and Astros and New York Yankees are expected to be the primary suitors for Cole, MLB insider Jon Heyman explained on
“Big Time Baseball“:
“It looks to me like it could be a Yankee-Dodger battle. The Dodgers have not done this in the past. They’ve basically drafted and developed well, they try to keep their own guys. The only guys they’ve offered $100 million to are Greinke, who they were outbid by quite a bit by the smaller market Arizona. … They’ve kept their own guys but in this case they may make an exception.
“I’m not going to rule out Houston trying to keep him. And there will be teams that obviously need pitching that are pretty big market teams like Philly, who will take a shot. I can see this coming down potentially to Yankees and Dodgers.”
Cole went 20-5 with a 2.88 ERA, 185 ERA+, 2.64 FIP and 0.89 WHIP in 33 starts this season. He set career bests in wins, ERA, innings pitched (212.1), strikeouts (326), ERA+, FIP, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings (13.8) and tied a career high in starts.
Cole additionally led the Majors in strikeouts, ERA+, strikeouts per nine, and paced all American League pitchers in ERA and FIP.
He’s carried that success into the postseason, going 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched across three starts. Cole has logged at least seven innings in each of those outings and limited opponents to a .132/.214/.197 batting line.
Cole figures to contend for the richest contract signed by a pitcher in free agency, which currently belongs to David Price and the seven-year, $217 million deal he signed with the Boston Red Sox at 30 years old in December 2015.
It’s the type of deal the Dodgers have shied away from under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, but an opportunity to sign someone of Cole’s caliber and at his age has been few and far between.