Put an Angels halo on Gerrit Cole? Why timing might be as crucial as money
Disneyland is just down the street from Angel Stadium. The office of Scott Boras is a short freeway ride away.
It is 19 miles from Fantasyland to Boras Land.
A championship parade might be staged in Fantasyland, but a pennant can be won in Boras Land. The Angels’ success this offseason — and how the dominoes fall for this class of free agents all across the major leagues — might well depend on whether Boras grants the team a FastPass to negotiations with Gerrit Cole.
Cole, of course, is the dominant pitcher available in free agency.
Boras is the dominant agent. His roster includes the top three players available — Cole, pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon — as well as pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, infielder Mike Moustakas and outfielder Nicholas Castellanos.
Sacramento’s Major League Soccer stadium model of reimbursing the team from a portion of revenue from developments might work for Anaheim and the Angels.
You might have noticed Cole’s interview after the Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the World Series. Cole wore a cap — not an Astros cap, but a cap from Boras Corp.
Cole grew up in Orange County. He pitched at Orange Lutheran, five miles from Angel Stadium. In one of his high school games, he pitched against one of Boras’ sons.
He happily recalls attending the Angels’ first World Series, when he was 12. He could sign with the Angels and try to pitch them into their second World Series.
Cole has done his best to say he will consider an offer from anywhere, but his teammates are betting on the young man going West.
“He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick told USA Today. “I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him.”
Said Houston pitcher Wade Miley: “I got the Angels, and paying him at least $250 million.”
That is the industry consensus. The Dodgers could use Cole, and they could afford him. Same for the New York Yankees, the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. And the Astros?
“We’re gonna take a run at it,” Astros owner Jim Crane told reporters in Houston on Monday. “We don’t know if we can get to where they want to get. Boras is tough to deal with.”
This should not be terribly difficult. The Angels desperately need Cole. If he truly wants to come home and play, the outline of a deal could emerge in short order.
The highest average annual value for a pitcher: Justin Verlander’s $33 million. The highest total value for a pitcher: David Price’s $217 million.
For Cole, seven years at $34 million each would be $238 million. Add in bonuses, and an eighth year that could become guaranteed so long as Cole stays healthy, and the value of the contract could top $250 million.
A decade ago, when Ned Colletti was general manager of the Dodgers, CC Sabathia cornered him in a hallway at the winter meetings and said he would love to play for the team. Owner Frank McCourt did not have that kind of money at the time, and the Yankees signed Sabathia before the end of the winter meetings.
In a telephone conversation Monday, Colletti did not recall the details of that Sabathia conversation. But Colletti did stress how a team cannot put its offseason plans on hold in the hope it can sign one player.
Boras is not shy about advising his free agents to wait out the market in hopes of a better offer. Bryce Harper did not sign last offseason until after spring training started. Keuchel did not sign until after the season started.
The Angels are favored to end up with Gerrit Cole.
But Boras will listen if a player directs him to negotiate the best deal he can with one team. He did that for Jered Weaver with the Angels, and for Strasburg in his last deal with the Washington Nationals.
Said Colletti: “I would tell the agent, ‘You know if your player really wants to be here. If we’re the top spot on his list, then we’re going to have to work at a different pace than maybe you are accustomed to.’ ”
Colletti said he was speaking generally, not about Cole or Boras in particular. But the Angels must fill the vacancies in their starting rotation and they cannot let the likes of Jake Odorizzi and Zack Wheeler sign elsewhere while they wait out Cole.
In theory, they could be waiting when the agent for a second-tier pitcher tells the Angels they have 24 hours to match another offer, or the player will sign elsewhere.
“If you’ve got a list of five, and No. 5 is gone, and No. 3 is gone, and No. 4 is about to go, you’ve got to make that hard call,” Colletti said. “You have to have that communication.”
Boras and Angels owner Arte Moreno have not always had the best of communication, but both men play the long game. The relationship deteriorated over negotiations for the Angels to retain Mark Teixeira, but that was a decade ago, and Boras placed Matt Harvey in Anaheim last offseason.
In 2013, when the previous mayor of Anaheim torpedoed a deal city negotiators had struck with the Angels for a renovated stadium, Moreno waited for a new mayor. The Angels and the city hope to strike a new deal by the end of this year.
Boras and Moreno should at least be able to agree on whether Cole would sign relatively soon, and how many hundreds of millions that would take. When Moreno spoke with reporters at Joe Maddon’s introductory news conference, the headlines focused on these seven words: “The payroll will go up next year.”
But Moreno said six other, lesser noticed, words about when he would be prepared to start spending: “Five days after the World Series.”
That was not a random date. That was the first day teams can negotiate with free agents, and that day was Monday.
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