Biggest Multi-million Offer to an MLB Pitcher in History Goes to Gerrit ColeBy Staff Reporter
The record set Monday by Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg is not expected to last long as Major League Baseball teams offer to acquire top free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole.
Cole, 29, is expected to receive a contract of at least eight years in length with a cost of up to $280 million after leading a Houston Astros rotation that won the World Series in 2019, citing an executive from a team on the hunt for his services. Such a contract should be among the largest in the history of the Major League Baseball (MLB).
An eight-year, $280 million contract for Cole would match the record for a pitcher's annual average salary set by Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to remain with the Nationals. At present, Strasburg owns the record for the highest annual average salary for a pitcher as well as the richest contract by overall value.
According to multiple reports, the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels are frontrunners to obtain Cole for their teams.
Starting pitchers rarely order salaries or contract terms to match roles players playing on a daily basis rather than every fifth day. Since signing a 12-year, $426.5 million contract last off-season, Angels' outfielder Mike Trout holds the current MLB record for the largest deal in history.
According to SpotTrac.com, with an annual salary of $35 million, Cole would have accounted for over half of the entire team payroll of $64 million in Tampa Bay Rays during the 2019 season. Last season, no player on that team earned over $15 million.
Cole had a dominant Astros season, posting a 20-5 record with an average 2.50 league-leading earned-run and 326 strikeouts. Two straight All-Star Game appearances were made by the hard-throwing right-hander and finished second in the 2019 American League Cy Young Award vote.
Gerrit Cole will sign the largest pitching contract in baseball history at some point soon, possibly even during this week's Winter Meetings. It could even reach 300 million dollars. Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year deal with Monday, $245 million, and Cole is two years younger, has a cleaner injury history, and has been the best pitcher in the past two years.
The New York Yankees are among Cole's primary suitors and according to Joel Sherman from New York Post the Yankees are shopping leftist J.A. Happ to sign Cole in an effort to clear payroll space.
Happ, 37, is owed next season $17 million with an option of $17 for 2021, which in 2020 will cost 27 starts or 165 innings. He made 30 starts this past season and threw 161 1/3 innings and posted a 4.91 ERA with 34 permitted home runs. If MLB un-juices baseball, Happ could bounce back next year, though his speed has slipped with age.
Add Cole and subtract Happ, and the Yankees could either roll with Montgomery or Loaisiga until the return of German, or sign a lower-cost free agent as their fifth starter. It's rarely a good idea to give away pitching depth. In this case, the Yankees may have no choice but to unload Happ to sign Cole without blowing up the $248 million of the third luxury tax tier of the MLB.