The New York Yankees have offered Gerrit Cole a record-shattering contract, but he should keep holding out for more massive offers.
The past few offseasons have seen Major League Baseball’s biggest stars struggle to find big contracts on the open market. Call it collusion or just a simple risk-averse environment among the biggest spenders, whatever the case may be, there was very little urgency in the early weeks of past offseasons.
That’s different this year. Free agency already has a much more aggressive feel this winter, and the New York Yankees took things to another level last weekend by reportedly preparing to offer ace right-hander Gerrit Cole $245 million over seven years.
Then, on Monday the Washington Nationals reportedly agreed to give those same terms to right-hander Stephen Strasburg to keep the World Series MVP.
Reports indicate that with Strasburg receving a record-setting contract – both the biggest overall deal for a pitcher and in terms of annual salary – it has set the market for Cole’s deal to go even bigger and break both of those records.
By presenting Cole with an offer that blows the previous high-dollar contract out of the water by nearly $30 million, the Yankees are showing they aren’t messing around. The ball is now fully in the 29-year-old’s court. The Yankees are desperate to sign Cole after failing to sign him as a first-round pick out of high school in 2008 and then coming up short when the Pittsburgh Pirates put him on the trade block after the 2017 season. They’re also showing their cards very early in the process and aren’t even trying to hide their desperation.
The Yankees need Cole to lead their rotation, but are hardly the only team interested in bidding. The Los Angeles Angels are likely equally desperate to sign Cole. They need an ace to pair with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The Angels have missed the playoffs in eight of Trout’s nine MLB seasons. Cole attended high school only four miles away from Angel Stadium, so the hometown connection is obvious.
Speaking of hometown connection, the Los Angeles Dodgers have failed to win a World Series since 1988 and were bounced in the NLDS. The Dodgers won’t telegraph their desperation quite as much as the Yankees or Angels, but their need to win a title before the current roster ages out of its prime is very real.
If you’re keeping score, that’s three big-market teams with enough money to offer Cole a record-setting deal. With the rumored terms of the Yankees offer leaking out, plus Strasburg’s new deal, the starter and superagent Scott Boras have all of the leverage. With Strasburg returning to the Washington Nationals, that will leave Cole as the only true ace left on the market, with at least two teams bidding for him.
This is a dream scenario for Cole and Boras. Free agency is back in a major way after a brief hiatus. Zack Wheeler, with 126 career starts to his name, is signing a $118-million deal, for crying out loud. By making it known they plan to offer at least $35 million per year, the Yankees have effectively given Cole carte blanche to counter with something absolutely ridiculous. No starting pitcher has ever gotten an eight-year deal. Cole should make it his priority to set every record for a pitcher contract. He’s in the driver’s seat now and should be the last of the big three free agents to sign.