Astros right-hander and potential AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole just mowed down the Rays for the second time in the teams’ LDS matchup. Thanks in large part to the sheer brilliance he displayed in the second and fifth games of the series, the Astros have moved on in the postseason and are one step from advancing to the World Series. No matter how the year ends for the Astros, though, Cole’s in for a prosperous few months as arguably the preeminent soon-to-be free agent in baseball.
Cole, who just turned 29 a month ago, looks likely to head into the winter with a realistic chance at securing a $200MM-plus contract. As noted earlier this week, just four other hurlers (David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke) have reached that milestone to this point. But how does Cole compare to each member of that group when they signed their deals? Let’s stack up Cole against the younger versions of those starters in several key categories…
- Age when their contracts took effect: Price: 30; Kershaw: 26; Scherzer: 31; Greinke: 32
- Career average fastball velocity – Cole: 96.1 mph; Price: 94.2; Kershaw 93.2; Scherzer: 93.4; Greinke: 92.3
- Career ERA/FIP – Cole: 3.22/3.06; Price: 3.10/3.19; Kershaw: 2.61/2.88; Scherzer: 3.60/3.38; Greinke: 3.34/3.32
- Career strikeout percentage – Cole: 27.6; Price: 23.4; Kershaw: 25.4; Scherzer: 25.7; Greinke: 21.6
- Career walk percentage – Cole: 6.5; Price: 6.4; Kershaw: 8.3; Scherzer: 7.5; Greinke: 6.0
- Career groundball percentage – Cole: 44.7; Price: 44.3; Kershaw: 43.9; Scherzer: 38.7; Greinke: 43.8
- Career hard-contact percentage – Cole: 30.1; Price: 26.7; Kershaw: 24.4; Scherzer: 28.3; Greinke: 27.9
While the above numbers don’t tell the entire story, it’s inarguable that they carry significant importance when evaluating the usefulness of a pitcher. And there’s no doubt they make it clear that Cole’s career has compared quite favorably to all members of the $200MM class when they received their exorbitant paydays.
Adding to Cole’s appeal, he’ll journey to free agency as hands down the No. 1 starter on the market – someone who’s fresh off back-to-back dominant seasons, a third straight 200-inning campaign and perhaps a heroic playoff run. With all of those factors in mind, it would be perfectly reasonable for Cole’s agent, Scott Boras, to try to secure a contract in a record range for his client. Price ($217MM over seven years), Kershaw (7/$215MM), Scherzer (7/$210MM) and Greinke (6/$206.5MM) continue to lead the way for now, but they may have company soon.