There is no doubt who the marked man in free agency will be this offseason. The Angels, Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, and hopefully the Braves will all be bidding for this 29-year-old flamethrower. Gerrit Cole had another spectacular season that will likely result in his first Cy Young, and the guy is showing shades of his teammate Justin Verlander.
Through 191 career starts, Cole has gone 93-52 with a 3.22 ERA & 1,329 Ks in 1,190 innings pitched. His 2019 was far better, 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 K in 212.1 IP for the best pitching staff in baseball. His WHIP of 0.89 and his K/9 of 13.8 are absurd, as he led the AL in K/9, FIP, strikeouts, wins, and ERA. His World Series performance wasn’t his best work, but he was facing one of the hottest teams we’ve ever seen in baseball, and let’s face it, he set the expectations pretty high for himself leading up to the Fall Classic.
Cole has had a few bumps in the road since being taken #1 overall by Pittsburgh, but after being traded for *squints* Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin, things began to click on a whole different level with Houston. Cole is going to shatter records for money paid to a starting pitcher, but is he a realistic option for the Braves, and is he worth it? A rotation of Gerrit Cole, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and whoever else the Braves decide to roll with might be the best we’ve seen in Atlanta since the Smoltz/Maddux/Glavine days, opening up a legit championship window for this bunch. However, it will take an arm and three legs to acquire him.
Let’s get the first hiccup out of the way. Liberty Media is notoriously cheap, but missing out on a deep postseason run might change their tune, especially with a division rival winning it all. The second problem, he’s a Scott Boras guy. Whatever contract he’s signed to – wherever he goes – will likely be a Zack Greinke level overpay. However, looking at Greinke, he hasn’t slipped at all yet. He’s been worth the money.
With Atlanta’s issues developing pitchers, this is the type of guy that may be worth it no matter the price tag. There can’t be any hesitation this offseason, especially with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña on team-friendly deals for the next decade. Freddie Freeman’s next contract won’t be a concern. You can afford to pay Cole, Donaldson, and someone else. Good teams spend money and reap the benefits, look no further than the Astros and Nationals, and Cole is the type of can’t miss free agent that would make the Braves favorites in the National League for years to come.
So is he coming to Atlanta? Sadly, a move like this seems unfathomable these days.
I’d love to have Gerrit Cole and add another low-cost guy like Alex Wood, but this isn’t a move Liberty Media has been known to make. It becomes a little more plausible if Donaldson isn’t re-signed, but then the Braves would have to take a substantial step back at third base, at least for a year. For now, pinch yourself if you see Gerrit Cole in a Braves uniform. No matter how perfect of a match he is for this up and coming club, ownership has shown no signs of a willingness to spend the money necessary to put this team in a prime position to win a World Series – or multiple.