Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole is just moments away from taking the ball against the Nationals in Game 1 of the teams’ World Series matchup. It’s a well-deserved honor for Cole, who has perhaps been the premier pitcher in baseball this season. The 29-year-old logged a sterling 2.50 ERA/2.64 FIP with a ridiculous 13.82 K/9 against 2.03 BB/9 over 212 1/3 regular-season innings in 2019. He was far and away the league leader in strikeouts (326), totaling 26 more than second-place finisher and Astros co-ace Justin Verlander.
Since his incredible regular season ended, Cole has added to his mystique with what has been a legendary playoff run. Cole dismantled the Rays and Yankees over three starts and 22 2/3 innings during the AL playoffs, yielding a mere one earned run on 10 hits with 32 strikeouts against eight walks. Unsurprisingly, the Astros went 3-0 in those games.
Cole may next help pitch the Astros to a World Series title in the coming days, but he’ll have plenty ahead of him after that. Not only does Cole look like a strong possibility to win his first Cy Young Award when the Fall Classic ends, but he might be weeks from scoring the largest contract a pitcher has ever received. To this point, just four hurlers – David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer (Cole’s Game 1 World Series opponent) and Zack Greinke (now a Cole teammate) – have landed guarantees of $200MM or more. For now, the most valuable pact ever continues to belong to Price, whom the Red Sox signed for seven years and $217MM entering 2016.
There may have been skepticism earlier in the season in regards to Cole’s chances of joining Price and the rest of the $200MM club, but there shouldn’t be anymore. The question now doesn’t seem to be whether Cole, a pending free agent, will land a $200MM-plus guarantee; rather, it’s by how much his next deal will exceed that mark. The only potential free-agent starter who’s anywhere close to Cole’s stratosphere is Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg, a World Series foe, but he’s not even a lock to reach the open market. For Strasburg, doing so would mean opting out of the four years and $100MM left on his pact. Should Strasburg do it? Probably. But even if he does, it won’t preclude Cole from securing one of the richest (if not the richest) contracts anyone in the game has ever received.
It’s not hard to imagine deep-pocketed teams like Cole’s Astros, the Angels, Yankees, Nats, Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs and Giants, not to mention lower-payroll clubs like the Twins, White Sox, Rangers and Padres, among those in the mix for his services. So, there ought to be plenty of competition for Cole, which should help agent Scott Boras’ cause as he shops his star client around the league during the offseason. With Boras’ help, Cole may be on the verge of reeling in the biggest contract ever for a pitcher. Do you expect it to happen?
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