Coming into the off-season, there were two major prizes on the starting pitching market. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.
The grand prize is now down to one, and it is likely going to be the most expensive in major-league baseball history.
On Monday morning, it was reported that Stephen Strasburg had reached an agreement to return to the Washington Nationals. The deal? A record-breaking seven years for $245 million.
Stephen Strasburg’s deal with the Washington Nationals is for seven years and $245 million, a source tells ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 9, 2019
With Strasburg signing for nearly one-quarter of a billion dollars, it’s likely that we can see the first $300 million pitcher in baseball history with Cole. There’s no question that he’ll sign for more than $245 million, the question is, how much?
It’s easy to see why Cole will demand over $300 million now. He’s younger, has no injury history, and is arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball. It’s not every day that the best pitcher hits the free-agent market in his prime.
With that being said, the Dodgers absolutely need to make a strong push for Cole, regardless of how much it costs.
I’ve personally always believed that starting pitchers should never earn that much money. They play once every five days, and they can decline at any time. However, Cole appears to be the rare exception.
He’s coming off one of the greater seasons in recent memory, and his performance in October was just the icing on the cake. Again, I strongly believe he’s the best pitcher on the planet, and he’s in the prime of his career. A chance to sign a player of this magnitude doesn’t come around too often.
For me, I’m perfectly fine with offering him $300 million. Then again, it’s not my money, so it’s a lot easier said than done. If Strasburg can get nearly 1⁄4 of a billion, then Cole asking for $300 million is not too far-fetched at all.
Since Andrew Friedman took over, the Dodgers haven’t really made a splash in free-agency. He’s made some nice trades at the deadline, re-signed some players, as well as signed some role players. His biggest free-agent signing to this day has been A.J. Pollock (yikes), so that’s not the best look right now. What better way to make up for it than by signing the best pitcher on the planet?
The biggest obstacle in this will be determining how long the contract will be for. If I were to guess, it will be longer than the seven years that Strasburg got. Cole is only 29, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he demands 10 years. Or, it can be something similar to what was proposed here.
Cole’s final payday is now expected to exceed $300 million — and not by a penny or two. Nine years at $324 million is $36M on avg per year and that is probably not a bad over/under. What Strasburg signed for would move me to take the over on Cole.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 9, 2019
Yes, nine years is a lot, especially for a starting pitcher who will spend essentially his entire contract in his 30’s. Though, what we’ve seen from Cole over the last few years, it’s hard to see him slowing down anytime soon.
Back in 2015, Max Scherzer signed a seven-year deal with Washington for nearly $200 million. He was going into his age 30 season, and was coming off some incredible seasons. Since then? He’s still been arguably a top five pitcher in baseball. In every season, he’s posted an ERA under three, and struck out at least 240 batters. He’ll be entering his age 35 season, and still very well is a top pitcher in the game.
Of course, anything can happen with Cole, but there’s no reason as to why he can’t continue his dominance into his mid-to-late 30’s. If he can have the production Scherzer has had, this will absolutely be worth it.
For the sake of things, let’s say halfway through the contract he does take a step back. Maybe his strikeout numbers go down, and maybe his ERA jumps up a bit. I still will take a guess and say he’ll be a decent starting pitcher, and more importantly an effective one. Additionally, you’re still having one of the best pitchers on your team for 4-5 years in his prime.
I’m not sure how Cole wants his contract spread out. Maybe he wants the exact same every year, which I wouldn’t blame him for. If the Dodgers are able to, they should try and put more of that money towards the front end of the contract. For example, let’s say they can work out a 10-year deal for $320 million. As opposed to paying him $32 million a year, maybe they can work it out where he’ll get $38-40 million for the first four years of the contract. Honestly, maybe even more. With a few starting pitchers making $35 million in 2020, it’s not far-fetched for Cole to make more than $40 million a year.
Obviously, there is still a lot that has to happen. We don’t know the extent of the Dodgers’ interest, and how much $$ they’re willing to offer, or how many years. They could try and do something with what they did with Bryce Harper, and offer Cole something like four years for $160 million, but I don’t think that will work. Cole wants his money and his years, and he should get that.
The Dodgers have a chance to make the biggest splash in free-agency. They have a chance to acquire the best pitcher in baseball, who can easily dominate the league for the next five years, maybe even more. As I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t come around too often. With guys like Dustin May and Julio Urias joining the rotation as soon as 2020, the Dodgers can potentially have the best starting rotation in baseball for the foreseeable future. Add Walker Buehler to the mix, and this can be a rotation that can dominate for years to come.
The Dodgers are in the drivers seat with this one. If they don’t land Cole, there’s nobody to blame but themselves. They can get it done. The question is, will they?