Gerrit Cole and the Astros- A Baseball Tragedy

Drake Drymond, Head Editor

In Shakespearean tragedies, everyone dies. However in this tragedy there is one death, and one death only. Just as the loss of Juliet drove Romeo to kill himself, the loss of Gerrit Cole may be the end of the Astros title hopes. 

It all goes back to the 5th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Gerrit Cole had begun warming up in the Astros bullpen. Armed with a 2-1 lead the Astros looked prepared to send in the best pitcher in all of Baseball to get through a few tough innings and bring home a World Series title; however, A.J. Hinch had other ideas. Cole never made an appearance on the mound that night. In the biggest spot, in the biggest game of the entire baseball season, with the title on the line a pitcher who had been on one of, if not the greatest stretch’s of pitching ever wasn’t given a chance to win the game. Why this occurred we may never know, but in the post-game interviews Gerrit Cole appeared to be done. When he donned the hat of his agent (Scott Boras’) company, he signaled that that fateful night in October would be his last as an Astro. As a pending free-agent, Cole had made clear that he wouldn’t be returning. Over the following weeks Astros fans and management alike had to come to grips with this on top of having just lost the World Series.

As Winter meetings started, free-agents began to meet with teams- Gerrit Cole among them. The top teams pursuing him appeared to be a 3 team race of the Angels, Dodgers, and the Yankees. The latter would ultimately be the one to sign him. Over the course of the next 9 years, the New York Yankees will pay Cole 324 million dollars. That equates to roughly: 36 million per season, 1 million for every start, and 170 thousand for every inning he pitches. This absurd amount of money is far and away the richest contract for a pitcher in Baseball history, and currently sits as the 2nd biggest contract in MLB history- only 6 million behind Bryce Harper’s record deal signed last season.

The fact that Cole left was tough enough, but to add insult to injury, he happened to go to arguably the Astros biggest threat to winning the World Series in the Yankees it amplifies the impact. After barely beating the Yankees a year ago in 7 games in the 2019 ALCS, a weakness that dominated the headlines was how awful the Yankees starting pitching had been. Although they had been bailed out by their bullpen in a couple of games, people generally agreed that if the Yanks had gotten better results out of their starting pitchers they would’ve won the series. Now add Gerrit Cole to the mix and their starting rotation instantly vaults to one of the top 5 pitching staffs in all of baseball. With an established ace(Gerrit Cole), 2 solid number 2’s(Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka) and a very good set of relievers and closers in the pen. This is in addition to their already great offense that vaunts the likes of Aaron Judge, D.J. LaMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and others who are all either in or about to start entering their primes. This puts Houston in an unfamiliar position of not having the best starting pitching in all of baseball. 

Now as the Yankees appear to be in pursuit of closer Josh Hader, pressure mounts on the Astros to take action. Rumors have recently surrounded Carlos Correa, with the potential of the team trading him, but it begs the question for who? Ultimately I believe that the Astros must sign a high level pitcher in free agency and trade Carlos Correa for a cheaper, healthier alternative at short-stop if they are to remain in contention with the Yankees. Additionally, they need to make moves to improve the bullpen with players such as Wade Miley, and Collin McHugh likely not resigning from the team. To teams with an unlimited stockpile of cash in a sport that has no salary cap, this likely wouldn’t be an issue, but with the Astros under the ownership of Jim Crane, the franchise has operated on a tight budget and has managed to keep a relatively average payroll, thus all this is unlikely to happen.