The 2019 season came to a sad end Wednesday for the Astros, who watched their 2-0 lead over the Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series evaporate during the latter stages of the contest. The club may now be on the verge of losing one of its best players, free-agent right-hander Gerrit Cole, who did not factor into its Game 7 loss. Speaking to reporters afterward, Cole sounded like someone who believes his Astros tenure is over.
“I’m not an employee of the team,” Cole said to an Astros spokesperson (via Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle). “I guess as a representative of myself…”
Cole was wearing a hat representing his agency, the Boras Corporation, at the time. But Cole indicated Thursday (per Atkins) that didn’t mean anything, calling the cap “a good luck charm.” He also walked back his comments from Wednesday, saying: “I was upset, and my tone did not come off quite the way I wanted it to. One win away. We had the lead with eight outs to go. It’s just a tough pill to swallow.”
After starter Zack Greinke exited with a 2-1 lead, one out and a runner on first in the top of the seventh inning, the Astros could have subbed in Cole and attempted to ride to the finish line with the potential AL Cy Young winner. However, in fairness to manager A.J. Hinch, Cole has not pitched in relief since his days at UCLA. With that in mind, Hinch turned to Will Harris – who was brilliant for most of the postseason – and then closer Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Joe Smith and Jose Urquidy. In the end, the team’s relief corps failed miserably in what wound up as a 6-2 year-ending implosion for the Astros.
Of course, even a championship-clinching win Wednesday wouldn’t have changed the fact that the Astros have their work cut out for them in trying to keep Cole. At the outset of the playoffs, owner Jim Crane admitted he’s unsure whether Houston will be able to put a legitimate bid on the table for Cole, who seems more and more likely to blow past David Price’s seven-year, $217MM contract and sign the richest deal ever for a pitcher. Concerns over the luxury tax could help bring an end to Cole’s run with the Astros after two extraordinarily productive seasons, but despite the frustration the 29-year-old showed Wednesday, he’s not closing the door on a potential new agreement with Houston.
“I’m really grateful for this experience. I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m not saying goodbye, by any means,” Cole said Thursday. “I truthfully don’t have a crystal ball. I could speak to what I know. And I know that I’ve loved every second here and I loved competing with the guys.”