Last-minute gift idea: a Gerrit Cole extension


SOUTH HILLS – Now that spending caps exist in the June draft and international market, eliminating the one area where the Pirates out spent their competition, the club must find new areas to responsibly and smartly spend its relatively limited treasure.

I don’t think you should be too critical regarding the Pirates’ lack of activity in free agency. After all, it’s often a fool’s errand to spend tremendous resources on players’ post-prime years.


What you want to buy are players’ primes which are typically their final years of arbitration and those early years of free agency. The new ideal roadmap is to spend the game’s new television wealth on clubs’ own players.


Yesterday at Grantland, the estimable Jonah Keri suggested the Pirates should attempt to extend Gerrit Cole.


“Extending the idea beyond the occasional Cano-level free agent, the next logical step is for teams to use their stacks of cash to lock up their best young players to long-term deals. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper won’t be easy to sign, given how much they stand to make if they wait. Still, everyone has a price. And whether it’s those two young stars, or even less-experienced players like Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole, and Wil Myers, the logical way to balance profits with wins might be to make the kids some offers they can’t refuse.”


A number of players have agreed to club-friendly extensions in recent years – more than 50 current players – though I wonder if more players  will see contracts like Andrew McCutchen’s and see the millions they are potentially leaving on the table. In McCutchen’s case it could be $90 million over the course of his contract. Of course, he also guaranteed himself financial security and eliminated risk at a young age. Each side has to give in this situation.


But making any Gerrit Cole extension  unlikely is his representation, Scott Boras, who has called such contracts reprehensible on the part of agents.


Still, it’s worth a try. Everyone has a price. And Boras clients Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez and Elvis Andrus have signed extensions.


So what would the price be for Cole?



Having to negotiate with Boras? Send in this guy to make a non-refuseable offer.


So where does the framework begin? Two young pitchers signed extensions last offseason but you can be sure that even with less service time than Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale, Boras and Cole would see more dollars.



Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants:

Singed with 2.127 service time a 5-year, $35 million extension,  ’13-17, with options for 2018, 2019

2013: $950,000, 2014: $3.95, 2015: $ 6.96, 2016: $9.95, 2017: $11.7 (2018 option: $12 million, 2019 option: $12 million)

Up to to a 7-year, $59 million deal. *Options can escalate to $14 or $16 million.

Buys out all arbitration years and up to three years of free agency

Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox:

Signed with 2.061 service time a 5-year, $32.5 million extension . ’13-17, with options for 2018, 2019

2013: $850,000, 2014: $3.5, 2015: $6, 2016: $9.15, 2017: $12

Up to a 7-year, $58.6 million deal.

Buys out all arbitration years and up to three years of free agency



To buy out Cole’s arbitration and up to three years of free agency this offseason this might be more within the ballpark:

7-years, $56 million, ’14-20, plus option years at $20 million at 2021 and 2022 ($2 million buyout). (Similar to the McCutchen deal only there’s much more risk on the Pirates side as Cole is a pitcher and he’s further form free agency compared to when McCutchen signed).

Something like: 2014: $500,000, 2015: $500,000, 2016: $1 million, 2017: $6 million, 2018: $12 million, 2019: $16 million, 2020: $18 million.

Up to a 9-year, $94 million deal.

Maybe that’s enough dollars – with enough unknown remaining on the Cole side –  to entice Boras not to hang up the phone.

Also, the Pirates should have more cash available after their TV deal comes up in 2019, which makes a back-loaded deal more plausible.

The benefit is you buy out his arbitration and two years of free agency at today’s market value for a top-of-the rotation arm and who knows what the going rate for a No. 1 arm will be once Cole reaches his  arbitration/free agency years.

But the longer the Pirates wait the more leverage they will lose.



*Tim Lincecum did not sign an extension. He went year-to-year through arbitration. He earned $64.1  million over his first six-plus years of team control including $18 million in 2012 and $22 million in 2013. If Cole is as good as we think he can be, he’ll be much more expensive.


*The Rays are compelled to move David Price because they don’t want to play the estimated $26 million over his final two years of arbitration. If the Pirates do not reach a long-term deal with Cole, if they are not willing to commit 18-20 percent of payroll to one player, they could find themselves in a Price-like situation having to try to deal Cole after the 2017 season.


Unfortunately for the Pirates’ faithful this could be the most likely scenario, though Keri thinks it doesn’t have to be



*The Giants waited until the final season of team control to extend Matt Cain and it was expensive: five-years $112 million and that was at 2012 prices.


Everyone has a price. Can the Pirates match that of Cole-Boras?