If you’ve read the title of and clicked on this piece, I know what you’re probably thinking by now. “There’s no way the Phillies shouldn’t pursue Cole. He’s the top starter on the market and our pitching stunk last year!”
Truthfully, the Phillies pitching staff was severely underwhelming last season. The unit recorded an abysmal 4.64 ERA in 2019 and boasted only one starter- Aaron Nola- that finished with 10+ wins and a sub-4.00 ERA.
Still, as lousy as the pitching was last year for the Phils, I believe it would behoove them to sit out the Cole sweepstakes. Or at the very least not put it atop their priority list.
Cole, of course, was dominant in 2019. En route to a 20-5 record with the AL champion Astros, Cole posted a 2.50 ERA and a league-best 326 strikeouts across 212 1⁄3 innings. His performance earned him his second consecutive All-Star selection and third overall. It was also his second straight campaign in which he recorded 15+ wins and recorded a sub-3.00 ERA.
So why should the Phillies not prioritize him this winter, exactly?
For starters, Cole is expected to be on the receiving end of perhaps the richest contract in league history amongst MLB insider circles. Though he has certainly earned every dime of whatever contract he is awarded this offseason, the Phillies shelling out a record-breaking contract for the second year in a row doesn’t bode too well for their financial situation moving forward. Doing so with Bryce Harper last year, who was not only 26-years old at the time but a generational athlete in the sport, made a ton of sense for the Phillies as they ensured he spends the entire prime of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.
2019 AL Cy Young runner-up Gerrit Cole, however, is already 29-years old and will be 30 by the end of the first year of his next contract. While he could certainly continue to be productive in his 30s, pitchers don’t typically have quite the shelf life that outfielders have.
In addition to age and career-length expectancy, Cole’s agent Scott Boras has “indicated” to teams that his prized pitching client is unlikely to ink a new deal before January, according to Andy Martino of SNY. While Boras could easily be using one of his famed negotiating tactics in an attempt to hike up the price for Cole, he’s also not known for his bluffing and it wouldn’t be the first time a premier player waited until deep in the offseason to sign a deal, à la Jake Arrietta.
As nice as it would be to acquire Cole, the Phillies simply can’t afford to lose out on other options waiting around for Cole to make a decision. And unlike last year when they had the bankroll available to wait around for Harper to seek greener pastures elsewhere, the Phillies only have roughly $50M to play with this winter. They’d be much better-served signing, say,
Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels early in the offseason instead of potentially losing out on both trying to end the offseason with a splash signing of Cole. Heck, the team could even pursue fellow front-end starter Stephen Strasburg, whose market is likely to develop much faster, over the aforementioned Cole.
Also, to be clear, I’m not insinuating that the Phillies shouldn’t be interested in Cole at all. They should be after his services just like the other 29 teams in the league. I’m simply stating that their offseason shouldn’t be centered around the talented hurler. If they ultimately acquire him, awesome! But that should be on top of whatever other starters they acquire this winter because the team simply can’t afford to run with the unproductive Nick Pivetta-Vince Velasquez-Jerad Eickhoff triumvirate at the back end of their rotation again.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports