Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole is on a collision course with an enormous payday in the next few months. Arguably the most valuable impending free agent in baseball, the three-time All-Star expressed excitement Tuesday in regards to his potential trip to the open market, per Mark Berman of Fox 26 (video links).
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Cole. “I know what my right is as a player. Once I get six years of service time, my right is to be able to say yes or no to a place I want to play. So I’m excited to be able to exercise that right.”
That may make it sound as if Cole is ready to exit the Astros, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Houston, according to Cole, “checks a lot of the boxes. I expect them to be there when push comes to shove. I wouldn’t mind playing there for a lot longer.”
The feeling’s likely mutual for the Astros, with whom Cole has been brilliant since they acquired him from the Pirates entering the 2018 campaign. While Cole had plenty of high moments as a Pirate, he endured multiple seasons in Pittsburgh in which he battled injuries and didn’t prevent runs at ace-level rates. The Houston version has been durable and elite, though.
Not only is the hard-throwing Cole on pace for his second straight 200-inning season with the Astros, but he has a realistic chance to surpass the 300-strikeout mark. Cole leads the majors with a stunning 13.11 K/9, has walked just 2.31 hitters per nine and has logged a 3.09 ERA/3.00 FIP across 116 2/3 innings. Overall as an Astro, he owns a 2.95 ERA/2.81 FIP with 12.66 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9 through 317 frames. His 9.4 fWAR dating back to 2018 paces all American League starters and ranks third in the game, trailing only supreme aces Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.
Scherzer’s a few offseasons removed from signing a seven-year, $210MM contract with the Nationals in free agency. Scott Boras, who also represents Cole, helped Scherzer secure that deal. Along with David Price and Zack Greinke, Scherzer is one of three pitchers to reel in $200MM-plus pacts to this point. The soon-to-be 29-year-old Cole, with Boras’ help, could angle to become the fourth by next season.