SAN DIEGO — When Stephen Strasburg re-signed with the Nationals for seven years and $245 million—the largest contract for a starting pitcher in MLB history—on Monday, there was little doubt that this offseason’s Winter Meetings wouldn’t be the snorefest they were in recent years.
In an instant, fears of increased labor animosity simmered and the rumor mill refocused on the $300 million question: How much will it take to sign Gerrit Cole?
Initial reports following Strasburg's deal indicated Cole could get as much as $300 million for more years and a greater average annual value than what Strasburg got. Agent Scott Boras, who represents both Cole and Strasburg, knows how hot the market is for a pitcher of Cole’s caliber and age (29) with no history of significant injuries. If Strasburg, who’s 31 and had Tommy John surgery, could net such a deal from the team that drafted him and he likely had little interest in leaving, it’s hard to put a cap on what Cole will get with heavyweights bidding on him.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the “Cole goal” (a Boras-ism at its finest) was a deal of 9-10 years worth at least $300. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that a nine-year, $324 million deal for Cole ($36 million per year) probably would “not be a bad over/under,” and that he would take the over.
If we assume Cole is going to get a larger AAV than Strasburg, his contract would be more than $315 million for nine years, and more than $350 million if it’s a 10-year deal. If it’s the former, Cole would be the first pitcher, and fifth player ever to reach the $300 million threshold, and he’d be the only one to do so with less than 10 years. The latter would make Cole the second highest paid player in MLB history, behind Mike Trout (12 years, $428.17 million).
Either way, it’s clear Boras won’t go for anything less than $300 million for Cole, certainly not any time soon. Boras knows the market for Cole is hot, and he also knows that demand will only increase as each of the other top free-agent pitchers sign.
During a press conference Monday with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, Boras was asked how Strasburg re-signing impacts the rest of the pitching market, especially Cole.
“I’m going to have a press conference tomorrow at noon and I’ll address all those things then,” Boras said. “I think I just want to confine this to Stras and the Washington Nationals.”
Instead of taking the time to vamp on how much money Cole deserves to make, and using the question as an opportunity to rip teams for lowballing his client, Boras decided to talk only about Strasburg. And that’s smart. Because anything said that makes Strasburg look worthy of such a massive contract only solidifies Cole’s value as at least $300 million.
The question is no longer if Cole is worth $200 million—that was answered a while ago—and it’s not even whether he’ll get $300 million. The only thing left to be determined is how much more than that Boras can get him.