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My “Pitch” for Extending Gerrit Cole

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Joe Camporeale - USA TODAY Sports

So I have a feeling this will be an unpopular article, as there’s a few controversial points that will be highlighted, but what causes better debate than that?

After the 2018 season, the Astros have lost Charlie Morton, are not projected to sign Dallas Keuchel for a return tour, and of course Lance McCullers will be out for the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John. This leaves a huge void the Astros starting rotation, but truthfully, a Starting Rotation that consists of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Colin McHugh provides an extremely strong 1-3 (despite people underrating McHugh), with the #1 pitching prospect in baseball, and a strong set of pitching prospects rounding out the rotation calms my nerves. I’m not disagreeing that adding another pitcher or other players is a bad idea, but I believe we can be a World Series competitive team without doing so.

But what gets scarier, is our top 3 SP are at risk as they will all be Free Agents after this upcoming season. I can only imagine the overwhelming amount of new recruits to the Panic Battalion.

With that said, with Lance McCullers returning, and hopefully the emergence of Forrest Whitley, the outlook is not as grim as it initially sounds, but there are definitely legitimate concerns of our ability to field an excellent starting rotation. The 2019 free agent class has some big names, but many will be stuck via club options, stay on their current contract, or are more of a recognized name than truly performing up to the glory of who they once were. (Will list in the comments)

So my #1 hope for this off-season, is an extension for Gerrit Cole. Why Cole instead of Verlander? Well it comes down to simply 2 components, #1 Age – I don’t think there’s much more explanation needed here, but the 7+ year gap in age is a huge differential. #2 Verlander’s expressed interest in certain markets (LA, Chicago, and even a potential retirement tour with Detroit).

I took to Twitter asking the question of where people would estimate a Gerrit Cole extension would land, and got answers ranging from $5/75 to 4/$180 to a billion dollars (okay that one may not have been serious). Those numbers obviously being general outliers, I wanted to look and see where I would predict his contract to fall.

So what would an extension for Cole look like? This is always a challenge and can be as much of an art as a science, but I decided to look at 2 approaches, 1.) Previous pre-FA extensions of pitchers of this caliber, 2.) The Patrick Corbin deal – due to how recent and some similarities.

Getty Images

1.) Steven Strasburg – Signs 7 year / $175 Million dollar extension. ($25 Mil per year)

There are quite a few similarities, Strasburg, a Scott Boras client, 27 at the time of signing his deal, was 1 year away from free agency. Cole, also a Scott Boras client, is now 28 years old also has 1 year remaining of club contract. Here is how they stack up career wise up to that point:

Strasburg – 54-37, 3.09 ERA, 776 IP, 10.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.83 FIP, 18.8 WAR

Cole – 74-47, 3.37 ERA, 982 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.15 FIP, 22.3 WAR

So how does it all compare? Well Strasburg was a year younger, had better rate stats, but far less innings pitched in a similar period of time. Other areas to consider is that Cole is coming off a phenomenal season and the cost per WAR has increased slightly over the 3 years, also Strasburg had significantly deferred earnings with no interest, estimators at the time valued the deal to be truly worth approximately $162 Million, but also included opt outs.

AP Photo Ross D. Franklin

2.) Patrick Corbin – Signs 6 year / $140 Million dollar deal (23.3 Mil/year)

Corbin, the top Free Agent Starting Pitcher in this years crop, has barely had the ink dry on his 6 year $140 Million dollar contract. The deal was not far off from MLBTradeRumors prediction of 6 years $129 Million which takes out of the element of a one-off major overpay.

Corbin and Cole had similar years last year, but Cole generally outclasses Corbin across the board.

a. Pedigree - While Corbins 80th overall pick is not a low , it falls short comparatively to Cole’s #1 overall draft pick.

b. Age- Corbin hit Free Agency at the same time Cole is projected to, the differential being that the Astros would be signing the extension at a 1-year younger age.

c. Career stats:

Corbin – 56-54, 3.91 ERA, 945 IP, 8.54 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 , 3.65 FIP, 15.9 WAR

Cole – 74-47, 3.37 ERA, 982 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.15 FIP, 22.3 WAR

I don’t think many would argue, that if Corbin’s stats and background are the bar to compare Cole’s proposed contract, 6/$140 is definitely light. Corbin’s only true aspect that provides more value is that he is a lefty.

MLB.com

With those bars set, I decided I was going to buy out this years Arbitration (estimated at $13 Million) to make the deal more attractive as well as level set the payroll, as even with Crane’s comments about us supporting a payroll near the luxury tax line, spreading it over more years is beneficial for the team and Cole.

I came up with the estimate of 6 years / $165 Million. If you take this year’s projected salary out, it would bake out to roughly 5 years / $152 M $30.4 Million/year over the course of 5 years. When I asked around, quite a few people balked at this number, but honestly, I think it is actually a bit light, with the real number probably being higher before you consider other factors (such as opt outs, etc)

**an additional year would obviously raise the grand total but presumably reduce the AAV **

If Gerrit Cole comes close to repeating the year he had this year, you would have to assume his contract based on age, pedigree, and performance would skyrocket far beyond these expectations, and may end up closer to the David Price (7/$217), Scherzer (7/$210), Greinke (6/$206), which is why I believe my estimated salary may end up actually being a bit light.

Tell me, what do you think? What would you offer Cole if you were Luhnow, and how high would you be willing to go?

Poll

What do you think of 6/$165 Mil for an extension for Cole?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Too High
    (66 votes)
  • 15%
    Too Low
    (65 votes)
  • 68%
    Just right
    (288 votes)
419 votes total Vote Now