As the winter meetings convene in San Diego, topic No. 1 figures to be the landing spot for Gerrit Cole, who is poised to sign the largest contract for a pitcher in major league history. The only question is which team will give it to him.
The Angels and New York Yankees are believed to be the top two suitors, with the Dodgers likely in the mix as well. All three teams have already had face-to-face meetings with Cole, which allows for speculation that a deal could happen any day.
Of course, it also could drag past the new year, as the top free-agent deals did last winter. When it’s over, expect Cole to set a record.
The largest contract for a pitcher went to David Price, who signed a seven-year, $217-million deal with the Boston Red Sox in December 2015. The highest average annual value for a pitcher belongs to Zack Greinke, who makes $34.3 million per year under the six-year, $206-million deal he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015.
At the time of Price’s deal, he was entering his age 30 season. In the previous three years, he’d posted a 3.01 ERA over 93 starts with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Greinke was entering his age 32 season, with a 2.30 ERA over 92 starts and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings over his previous three years.
Cole will be pitching in his age 29 season next season. Over his last three years, he’s posted a 3.20 ERA in 98 starts, with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Over his last two years, though, he’s got a 2.68 ERA over 65 starts.
Cole also compares favorably to Max Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210-million deal in January 2015. Scherzer was entering his age 30 season, with a 3.24 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 97 starts in the previous three years.