The Pirates are unlikely to sign right-hander Gerrit Cole to a contract extension during the offseason, sources told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Cole and agent Scott Boras could be amenable to a three-year pact that would take him through arbitration, but the Pirates aren’t interested in that, according to Biertempfel. An agreement that would buy out some of Cole’s free agent years is also improbable, Biertempfel reports. With no deal coming, Cole will make his first trip through arbitration over the winter and could hit free agency after the 2019 campaign.
Cole, whom the Pirates chose first overall in the 2011 draft, has been mostly excellent in the major leagues since debuting in 2013. However, Pittsburgh is wary of his injury history, per Biertempfel. Cole was on the disabled list twice in 2014 thanks to shoulder fatigue and lat tightness, and the 26-year-old tossed just 116 innings this season while dealing with multiple injuries. Cole had a rib issue that bothered him in spring training, and he then went on the DL three different times during the season. Two of those stints were the result of right elbow inflammation, with the second forcing the Bucs to shut him down for the year in mid-September.
Before the season began, Cole squabbled with the Pirates over financial compensation. The team renewed Cole’s salary for $541K, a $10K raise over what he collected in 2014, but only after threatening to slash his pay to the $507K league minimum when he asked for a raise.
“When you perform at a level that draws the praise of management, teammates, coaches and fans, you expect appropriate compensation. I understand the business of this game, but it is hard to accept that a year of performance success does not warrant an increase in pay,” Cole said at the time.
Cole was superb in 2015, his first All-Star season, as he established career highs in innings (208), ERA (2.60), BB/9 (1.9) and swinging strike rate (10.2 percent). Those numbers dipped this year, though, with Cole posting personal worsts in each category. All told, he recorded a 3.88 ERA, 2.79 BB/9 and 8.5 percent swinging strike rate. Cole also set a career low in K/9 (7.6), down significantly from the 8.74 figure he registered in 2015.
While Cole’s output wasn’t great this season, his numbers across 579 career major league frames are stellar. He’ll benefit from his overall performance in arbitration, where ERA (3.23) and wins (47) are important factors. MLBTR projects a $4.2MM arbitration award for Cole.