Gerrit Cole Was Never Coming Back To Houston And That's OK

The Astros will be just fine after losing Gerrit Cole

Adam Spolane
December 11, 2019 - 2:06 am
Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole makes his way to the bullpen during the fifth inning in game seven of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park.

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Gerrit Cole was never going to re-sign with the Astros.

There was no shot, but the Astros knew this.

They knew it long before Cole briefly balked when asked to talk to reporters after game seven of the World Series saying he wasn't "an employee of the team."

They knew it after Cole racked up strikeouts in 2019, and if they're being honest, the Astros probably knew when they got him two winters ago Cole would be gone as soon as he hit free agency, and that's exactly what happened. 

Late Tuesday night, Cole reportedly agreed to a staggering nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees.

A day before, the Houston Chronicle reported the Astros and Cole hadn't spoken since the World Series, but this was no surprise.

If Cole turned out to be as good as the Astros thought, he'd fetch way too much in the open market. They were right. It's tough watching Cole join the team the Astros narrowly beat in the American League Championship Series, but they'll survive.

The team planned for this to happen.

When the Astros traded for Zack Greinke July 31, they did so not just thinking about the 2019 playoffs, they did so with the 2020 and 2021 seasons in mind as well.

Greinke isn't as good as Cole, but he finished with a 3.02 ERA in 10 regular season starts as an Astro and pitched brilliantly for six innings in game seven against the Nationals.

The Astros still have Justin Verlander at the top of the rotation. They'll get Lance McCullers back after he missed 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, and they like what they have in Josh James and Jose Urquidy.

Also, don't forget about top prospect Forrest Whitley, who the Astros refused to include in July's Greinke trade and if those options don't seem appealing, remember, the Astros know how to find undervalued pitchers. 

This is the team that plucked Charlie Morton out of obscurity, and thought Wade Miley was capable of pitching an entire season with an ERA in the 3s for $4.5 million?

The Astros have never handed out a contract of more than three years to a starting pitcher under Jeff Luhnow, and while Verlander's extension was for a lot of money, they only gave him two years, He had two years left on his Tigers contract when they traded for him, which is also the case for Greinke.

Luhnow was never going to give Cole nine years. 

The word "cheap" has been thrown around about Jim Crane from fans incredulous the Astros aren't keeping their 2019 roster intact, but those fans are wrong.

Crane is spending money, lots of it. Even with Cole gone, Baseball Reference projects the Astros 2020 payroll at over $220 million, which isn't far behind the Yankees.

To further the point, before Tuesday night, Giancarlo Stanton was slated to be the Yanks' highest-paid player next season at $26 million. The Astros will have three players (Greinke, Verlander, and Jose Altuve) on the books for more. 

Twenty-three months ago, the Astros traded Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In return Jeff Luhnow acquired a guy who pitched 412.2 elite regular season innings. He compiled a 2.68 ERA, striking out 602 hitters.

Gerrit Cole followed that by allowing seven runs in five 2019 postseason starts. This production cost the Astros a shade over $20 million.

That's a pretty good return on their investment, especially when compared to the $324 million the Yankees just handed out. 

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