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For Gerrit Cole, Dodgers Ownership Needs to Do Whatever it Takes

After last off-season, when the most prized free agents didn’t sign until well after the Winter Meetings, this year is shaping up to be different. Top free agency prize Gerrit Cole is being courted aggressively, with offers slated to begin this week. 

At the moment, the Yankees are looking like the slam dunk favorite to net Cole. So much so, that Peter Gammons posted a cryptic tweet that seemed to imply it’s a given that he’ll end up in the Bronx: 

The tweet could very well turn out to be a Bob Nightengale-level misfire of conjecture, but it still underlies the reality that the Yankees are stirring to life as the big-spending off-season behemoth they once were for decades. 

With that in mind, It’s time to spell it out: The Dodgers must be willing to meet, or exceed other offers not only in terms of salary and AAV, but years if necessary too. 

Given Cole hits age 30 next year, some may understandably be averse to handing out 7-8 years to him. But even if they’re on tab for a steep decline later on, they will still get his prime years during perhaps the most ripe portion of their current championship window. Furthermore, the team’s willingness to give four years to an aging, injury-plagued outfielder last off-season certainly makes any hand-wringing about potentially paying for a player’s decline a little less credible. 

Additionally, giving a deal to an ace heading into his thirties may actually be a plus in the context of today’s game. 2019 witnessed a year of resurgence for veteran pitchers like Justin Verlander, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Clayton Kershaw. The World Series champion Nationals were led by Max Scherzer and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. Granted, this may not be a sustainable trend, but the dominance of older pitchers at the moment is hard to ignore. 

Beyond the obvious reasons why getting Cole at all costs is a must (needing another postseason ace alongside Walker Buehler the main one), there are additional factors to consider in weighing the merits of giving him a lengthy contract. The first is that the forthcoming FA classes for starting pitching are much weaker than this one. It could be a while before another pitcher of his caliber is on the market. 

Second is the fact that not only do the Dodgers have the money to afford a record-setting deal period; there will be even more flexibility to pay him in the coming years, chiefly when Clayton Kershaw’s contract is up in two. 

Third is that the rotation risks being significantly weaker in 2020 than in recent years. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are both likely gone, leaving a big void. It’s not that the Dodgers lack starting rotation options without them, as they may have more of a surplus in that department than any other team. 

However, while their extras are all very good, they can’t replicate the difference-making impact in October a true ace like Cole can. And while breakouts from Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias aren’t impossible, it probably wouldn’t be wise to put that much pressure on young arms (especially given most or all will likely be on innings limits). 

Regardless of who attains Cole’s services, it will be a record-setting contract, significantly north of $215 million. As I’ve touched on a lot recently, this is not unprecedented territory for this franchise. After all, they gave out a then-historic deal to a coveted right-hander in Zack Greinke in 2012. Yes, he did opt out after three seasons, but it was still a huge move that yielded exceptional value. (Plus, the team did make a significant push to retain him with another big deal, this time under Friedman as opposed to Ned Colletti in 2012.) 

Should the Dodgers come up short and watch Cole go to New York or Anaheim (or elsewhere), there will no doubt be a chorus of reassurance that the team is still competitive. And that will indeed be true. They will win the NL West regardless, and could just hope the October crapshoot works this time. Friedman predictably stated that the team could continue its restrained approach and still be fine

And they would be just that: fine. Perhaps they will even win over 100 games yet again without big pickups. But this philosophy, while setting up one of the best runs of consistent success in MLB history, hasn’t yielded the ultimate prize. It’s created the foundation for it, but it’s not enough. 

Opportunities like this don’t come around often. There may be some risk in giving out such a lengthy contract to a pitcher, no doubt. But every contract is a risk one way or another. Winning a World Series requires a bold move of some kind. 

If this is the only big signing of Andrew Friedman’s tenure in Los Angeles, it’ll be worth it. This window, lengthy as it’s been, won’t last forever. It’s time to capitalize on what could be the most opportune stretch of that window and take a risk, no matter the price tag.

Written by Marshall Garvey

9 Comments

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  1. With Andrew’s comment that they don’t need to shake things up just to shake things up he might be setting himself up for losing out on all of the big three FA’s (Rendon, Cole and Strasburg). I respectfully disagree with Andrew’s comment, and is indeed time to shake things up and get the FA acquisition that closes the deal.

    Going the FA route allows the Dodgers to keep the young prospects that can be used midseason or quite possibly allow them to ascend to contributing roles in 2020 like Smith, Rios, Beatty, May, Gonsolin and Garlick did so this year.

    If the front office fails to acquire any of the big three I will be convinced more than ever ownership is OK with just being competitive enough to win the NL West, staying under the CBT and lining their pockets with more cash.

  2. When ownership is not a lifelong or homegrown FAN of the team its more about the revenue stream and the growth of the value of the franchise than winning the World Series !!!!

  3. I disagree with going hard after Cole…. Hes thrown alot of innings the past 2 years. In my opinion his arm is going to give whether it’s this year or next , and paying him millions of dollars to rehab for a year or 2 is not a good thing.. Dont get me wrong hes the best pitcher out there but sooner or later his arm is gonna go south at 35 40 mill a year. Go with strausberg at 125 mill and you will get a solid 5 years out of him. Just my opinion

  4. Cole is the only FA of the Rendon, Strasburg, Cole mix we should be looking at. Rendon turns 30 in June. A long term, big money deal for him makes no sense to me. Strasburg has been injury prone. We have enough of that already. Cole won’t turn 30 until September and at 29 years old has only thrown 1195 regular season innings. By comparison Kershaw totaled 1180 regular season innings at 25 years old. Guys like Verlander and Scherzer pitching in their mid 30’s have innings totals and success that should be a measure for what Cole could do over a 5-7 year contract. Verlander has near 3,000 innings. He turns 37 in February. Any high priced FA is a risk. But Cole is the best choice given where he is in his career. It’s not a stretch to think he could throw another 1,200 innings in the next 6 years. He’d be a 35 year old with only 2,400 innings. Again for comparison, Kershaw is heading into his 32 year old season with 2,274 regular season innings. Scherzer at 35 has pitched 2290. Cole has low mileage. I think he is the top FA on the market and he will get big money.

  5. Folks, don’t get your hopes up, and there is another reason why Dodgers most likely do not get any top FA’s this year and that is these guys may simple see the Dodgers as not a good attractive place to play, and Robert’s in game management and handling of pitchers, especially in October is a big reason why IMHO. Plus you add in all that shuffling around of players and relving door of lineups just because of the hand the opposing pitcher throws with is another factor as to why many players don’t want to come here.

  6. The Yankees have a 7 year deal on the table for Cole at $245 million. Now let’s be honest with ourselves. Do ANY of you folks here believe Dodgers would come even remotely close to offering him that much$$$$ for that long?

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