Giants

MLB free agency: Would Gerrit Cole be right fit for Giants this year?

MLB free agency: Would Gerrit Cole be right fit for Giants this year?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have used Buster Posey as a recruiter in recent years, but if they go after the best pitcher on the market this offseason, they'd be better off turning to another longtime member of the team's core. 

As you have surely heard by now, Brandon Crawford is Gerrit Cole's brother-in-law, a connection that is enough to have many fans dreaming of bringing Cole, a runner-up in the Cy Young balloting this year, back to California. But there's another Cole connection that's more meaningful this time of year.

The right-hander is represented by Scott Boras -- he wore a Boras cap after Game 7 of the World Series -- and thus is expected to walk into spring training next season as the owner of the largest contract ever given out to a pitcher. 

As a Boras client, Cole likely will not sign until early in 2020. The Giants went through this a year ago when they chased Bryce Harper and met repeatedly with Boras, and at some point this offseason you can bet that they'll kick the tires on Boras' many top-tier options. 

Cole is as good as it gets, but would he make sense for the Giants? Let's run down the pros and cons ... 

Pros

Cole might be better positioned than any pitcher who has ever hit free agency. Boras is famous for coming up with binders that hype his free agents, and he could literally hand an owner a 700-page book about Cole and be confident that no holes could be poked in his argument. 

Cole hits free agency as a 29-year-old who has pitched 200 innings in four of his past five seasons and has no injury concerns -- other than being a pitcher, of course. His fastball has averaged 97 mph in all but two months of the past two seasons, and it was a robust 96 during those two stretches. He holds that velocity well beyond the 100-pitch mark in starts and puts hitters away with a devastating slider. 

Cole's walk year was one for the ages. He posted a 2.50 ERA, 2.64 FIP and 0.89 WHIP, and led the league with an astounding 326 strikeouts and 185 ERA+.

Want a postseason performer? He has a 2.60 ERA in 10 playoff starts, including a 1.72 ERA in the 2019 run to Game 7. Cole struck out 47 batters in 36 2/3 innings last month. 

Cole's career took off when he was traded from the Pirates to the Astros, and he put up those video game numbers while pitching in a park that is often punishing for starters. Imagine what he could do spending half his time at forgiving Oracle Park, which happens to be in his home state. 

Cole, who grew up in Orange County and went to UCLA (where he met Amy Crawford), reportedly wants to return to California. That has made the Angels the heavy industry favorite to lock him up, with Dodgers fans also clamoring for their front office to make the leap. A deal with the Giants would bring him closer to home and get his wife back to the Bay Area where she grew up.

It would also fill a massive hole for the Giants. They might lose Madison Bumgarner and could use someone to take pressure off their young starters and inexperienced bullpen. Cole pitched at least seven innings in 15 of his 33 starts last season. The 2019 Giants had a starter complete seven innings just 20 times.

Cons

The reasons for pessimism have much more to do with the Giants than Cole. Simply put, he's the right player but at the wrong time. 

Cole is expected to shatter the previous record for a pitcher contract (David Price's $217 million) and should have the highest average annual value, too, topping Zack Greinke's $34 million per year. This is the time of the offseason when the numbers thrown out there sound silly, but the estimates for Cole's contract generally come down somewhere around $280 million.

Some in the game believe he will push for an eight-year deal. Some believe the contract will total more than $300 million. 

The Giants offered Harper $310 million nine months ago and have even more wiggle room this offseason, but they were sold in part on Harper's age (26 at the time) and ability to transform their soft-hitting lineup on an everyday basis. They also felt strongly that Harper would greatly increase their ticket sales, and it's hard for any pitcher -- even someone as good as Cole -- to do that when you might start just once on most homestands.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a limited history as the top decision-maker, but he kept contracts for starters to the $50 million range in Los Angeles and spent less than $10 million last offseason on Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz. 

The contract wouldn't make sense for an organization that is just starting to dig out of CBT hell and still has two years left on some massive deals, and the timetable doesn't match up either. Realistically, the earliest the Giants should truly contend is 2021. Cole is a win-now piece who could put a team like the Yankees or Dodgers over the top, but he would be on the wrong side of 30 when most of the next Giants core is in place. 

[RELATED: Top 10 pitchers available this offseason]

Zaidi is opportunistic. He got into the Harper chase when he realized the rest of the market was holding back, and he pushed the Giants relatively close to the finish line. You can expect, then, that at some point the Giants will be connected to Cole, in large part because the connection is just too obvious. 

This is still a rebuild, though, and an organization that has too many needs to commit $35 million per year to one pitcher. It's fair for Giants fans to dream about adding Cole, but the more realistic path is to simply hope he doesn't end up back in the NL. 

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically has always had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who have always jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.

What to watch for as Giants head to MLB's Winter Meetings

What to watch for as Giants head to MLB's Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO -- There are two things that we can guarantee will happen next week at Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. 

On Sunday, all of the reporters from the East Coast and chillier portions of the Midwest will take a few seconds to tweet out their appreciation for San Diego. A few days later, Scott Boras will find a cozy spot -- likely in front of the Christmas tree at the Manchester Grand Hyatt -- and explain to everyone with a microphone why owners are being cheap when it comes to his difference-making players (he's not wrong).

The rest of the week is generally unpredictable. The last time the Meetings were held in San Diego, reporters and team executives scrambled through the lobby as midnight approached one night, with Matt Kemp having just been traded to the Padres. There surely will be another moment like that next week, but nobody can tell you right now which players will be involved. 

But, there is a third guarantee in the middle of all that uncertainty. NBC Sports Bay Area will be there the whole time, bringing you stories, videos, podcasts and live shows. I'll be doing a live stream on our My Teams app with Amy Gutierrez every day, with special guests lined up. You also can follow any rumors on Twitter or go behind the scenes on Instagram. 

It should be a fun and unpredictable week. Here's what you should know before the Giants get on that short flight to The Tin Fish San Diego. 

So, What's The Plan, Guys?

It's not hard to figure out the direction the Giants are headed. They're going young as often as they can and trying to open up playing time for prospects and inexperienced big leaguers who might be the next Mike Yastrzemski. With every decision, the Giants are trying to build towards a contender in 2021 or beyond. That's why Kevin Pillar is gone and Jaylin Davis and Steven Duggar might be getting plenty of time next year. 

The coaching staff thus far has been filled with guys who have a strong background in player development, and the Giants quietly have invested millions of dollars in their infrastructure in Scottsdale to help that push. 

All of that is great if you're trying to catch up to the Dodgers in a few years, but it means 2020 looks a bit frightening right now. When the Giants have sent out youth-filled lineups during stretches the last couple of seasons, they've generally played like a 100-loss team. 

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi hasn't had much time to explain his roster plans this offseason because he spent so much time looking for new general manager Scott Harris and new manager Gabe Kapler, and then explaining the Kapler hire. He'll meet with beat reporters every afternoon in San Diego and will have an opportunity to further lay out his vision for the 2020 season. 

Harris and Kapler also should get their first opportunities to speak specifically about current Giants. Both still were getting up to speed last month, but the Winter Meetings generally provide the first opportunity to discuss the lineup or bullpen hierarchy, or what the rotation might look like. 

Bumgarner Watch

The Giants seemed to prefer being on the outside of this chase even when it looked like Bumgarner would have to settle somewhere around $80 million. If he truly does wind up with $100 million, or even tops Zack Wheeler's $118 million, as some have predicted in recent days, it's hard to see how Bumgarner's only previous employer is even part of the conversation at the end. 

Whatever happens, it largely will shape the Giants' offseason. If there's a surprise and Bumgarner is brought back, all will be forgiven. But it seems like this will be another move that fits in with an offseason that is setting the Giants up for the future, but one that has disappointed much of the fan base. 

A Big Splash?

The Giants ended up in quite a few Bryce Harper-related headlines last offseason, but most of that occurred in February. They haven't yet been connected to Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or any of the other top-end free agents, but that doesn't mean the Giants aren't considering all options. 

It's unlikely they get seriously involved with a Cole or Strasburg type, but perhaps next week will be the one that brings real Marcell Ozuna rumors or more on their reported interest in Nicholas Castellanos. The Giants are rebuilding, but they do have plenty of money to spend if they feel a player still will be highly productive a couple of years from now. 

Rest of the West

The Giants have finished 87 1/2 games behind the Dodgers combined in the past three seasons.

Read that again, because that is the stat that is guiding much of this offseason. There's no sign of it slowing down, either, because the Dodgers -- partially built by Zaidi -- are the National League's juggernaut and have waves of talent on the way. You can make your "no rings" jokes, but the truth is the Giants ultimately are vying to catch this Dodgers team, and they're nowhere close. 

So, it's certainly worth watching the Dodgers over the next week. If they get a Cole or Strasburg, they're that much stronger next year and in the years when the Giants are ready to compete. The addition of Anthony Rendon, something they're considering, would be downright frightening. 

The Giants probably don't lose much sleep over the Rockies, but the Diamondbacks have a nice young nucleus and money to spend and the Padres -- who added Drew Pomeranz early and traded for Tommy Pham on Thursday -- are in win-now mode. The NL West might look a lot tougher a week from now. 

[RELATED: Zaidi gives update on status of Giants' talks with MadBum]

Coaching Carousel 

The Giants plan to announce Kapler's staff early next week, but we already know that Brian Bannister will join as Director of Pitching and Donnie Ecker will serve as hitting coach. Kapler is 44, Bannister is 38 and Ecker is 33, and all three are well-versed in analytics and fresh techniques that have infiltrated the game over the past half-decade. 

What will the rest of the staff look like? Will Kapler bring in an experienced bench coach to provide some balance, or will the Giants continue to add coaches that they feel are rising stars with a different perspective? 

Thus far, Ron Wotus is the only one to survive the managing change, and it's unclear where Curt Young, Rich Schu and Jose Alguacil will end up in 2020 (there's no indication any of them will be back), or if other longtime members of the organization's support staff will be replaced. A lot of those questions should be answered over the first 24 hours in San Diego.