It’s not an overstatement to say that Gerrit Cole is the most intriguing pitcher to enter free agency in MLB history.
After “Big Time Baseball” co-host Josh Lewin asked about the Houston fireballer’s free-agency prospects, fellow co-host Jon Heyman launched into a deep dive of the situation, first comparing it to the free agencies of Randy Johnson and CC Sabathia.
After a brief but successful stint in Houston in which he posted a 10-1 record and a 1.28 ERA, Johnson was granted free agency. A massive (at the time) contract of four years, $52.4 million seemed like a risk at the time for the young Arizona Diamondbacks franchise, but "the Big Unit" rewarded the organization with four-straight National League Cy Young Award seasons.
Similarly, after dominating for the Brewers in 2008 (11-2, 1.65 ERA), Sabathia went on to test the free-agent market. The Yankees signed Sabathia to a then-record $161 million contract, a deal which resulted in the second-winningest pitcher in the majors and a World Series win in 2009.
The scariest thing about Cole is that he may be even better than Johnson and Sabathia were at the time of their free agencies. Cole led the league with a 2.50 ERA and has been nearly unhittable in the postseason. He hasn’t lost a game since May 22 and he has broken some very impressive strikeout records during this insanely hot stretch. Obviously, Cole is a massive commodity, and Heyman noted this.
“Cole, right now, is the best pitcher in the game, so he’s in an incredible position,” Heyman said. “It looks to me like it could be a Yankee-Dodger battle. The Dodgers have not done this in the past. They’ve basically drafted and developed well, they try to keep their own guys… but in this case they may make an exception.
“People in LA are not happy with the fact that they have not won a World Series since 1988, [and they] went out very sadly this year. It was, I’m sure, very disappointing for people in Los Angeles… so I think there’s more of an urgency for the Dodgers.
“The Angels are a hometown team, and the Dodgers are in a sense, too. He went to UCLA.”
While the Yankees and the aforementioned Dodgers are two of the main candidates, Heyman sees other possibilities.
“I’m not going to rule out Houston trying to keep him, and there will be teams that obviously need pitching that are pretty big market teams like Philly,” Heyman said.
“I’m going to come out and predict that he’s going to get a record for a pitcher. Seven [years] for $35 [million] a year... I see him getting $245 [million] and I don’t think that’s crazy money. We’ve seen a handful of pitchers get over $200 million and none of them were coming off the year that he’s coming off.”
Heyman additionally brought up two more big time free-agent candidates, Washington Nationals teammates Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg.
“Rendon is an interesting one,” Heyman said. “The Nats made an offer, [and] I think he’d like to stay there but there are some teams that could really use a third baseman. Texas, the Angels, Philly… I think that’ll be an interesting one. He’s probably going to aim to beat the Arenado deal."
“...At this point it’s clear that [Strasburg] will at least use that opt out. He may stay in Washington, but I think he will definitely use that opt out. $100 [million] for four [years] he’s got left, but look at the season he’s had, look at the postseason he’s had."
“...the Dodgers could be in there for him. The Padres, [as] he’s a San Diego guy and he went to college out there… he’s a guy of comfort so that’s why I’m thinking either he stays in Washington or he goes to some place else where he’d be comfortable which is Southern California.”
This week’s episode also featured interviews with Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa and Chicago sports radio host Matt Spiegel.
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