Why does it seem like the Toronto Blue Jays are never able to land any of the big fish in free agency? Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…
Typically, I would never suggest overpaying for baseball players, as it rarely ever works out. However, for upcoming free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Blue Jays should absolutely do what it takes to sign the young star.
First, there is a need immediately in the rotation for a true ace starting pitcher. The Blue Jays don’t have one, haven’t had one since Roy Halladay, and there are no signs that any of the current pitchers will be ready for that job in two years time when the Jays are supposed to be competing again. To keep up with the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox who often have at least two or three aces in their rotations, the Blue Jays are going to need at least one.
Signing Gerrit Cole would also be an immediate boon for Ross Atkins, and could be the coming-out party for a management group who have largely been tearing things down since their arrival. Also, can you imagine what signing Gerrit Cole to the Blue Jays would mean not just for the fans, but for the young and talented players on the field?
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An instant kick in the pants is what.
Most Importantly, the Blue Jays should pursue Cole, not just because he is one of the best free-agent pitchers for this upcoming offseason, but because he is the best fit for the Blue Jays timeline. Cole will be 29 next season, and has posted a career 3.30 ERA over seven seasons split between Pittsburgh and Houston, and has pitched in 200+ innings in three of his last five years.
This offseason Cole and Madison Bumgarner are the top pitchers available on the open market, Stephen Strasburg can also opt-out of his contract and also become a free agent. Then in 2020/21, there are some less high profile pitchers available in Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, and James Paxton, but none of the three would be considered a true ace, and none have pitched for 200+ innings in any season of their careers.
When you get to 2021-22 there are lots of notable pitchers available like Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Zach Greinke, and Noah Syndergaard. But the first four listed will be 34, 36, 39, and 38 years old respectively by that season, and Syndergaard can’t seem to stay healthy even in his youth. In the 2021-22 season, Gerrit Cole will only be 31, and should still provide decent production for seasons to come. He seems to fit the Blue Jays timeline of contention better than any free agent ace for the next three years.
There is the issue of Gerrit Cole being represented by Scott Boras, a notable Toronto Blue Jays critic. Yet, money speaks volumes, especially to Boras, so if Blue Jays ownership were to put the highest dollar amount on the table for Cole, one can only assume Mr. Boras would be keen to consider it. With all the money coming off the books for the Blue Jays payroll in 2020 and going forward, there should be more than enough for Cole to become the highest-paid Blue Jay since Vernon Wells. They could even afford to front-load a contract heavy through next season and 2021 to make it easier to acquire more talent in the future.
It may cost dearly in both years and cash to sign Gerrit Cole, but I think that his signing makes the most sense for a team that’s keen on being consistently competitive in a few seasons, and bring back much-needed stability to a rotation filled with budding young stars.