Astros ace Gerrit Cole is the most coveted free agent in all of baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros owner Jim Crane and Gerrit Cole shared a moment after another dominant gem from the free agent to be. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Giles Kibbe, Butch Harmon and Jim Crane are looking to the Houston Open's future.
Jim Crane (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Gerrit Cole went on a dominant roll for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Gerrit Cole wrapped closer Roberto Osuna in the bear hug of bear hugs after the ALDS win over Tampa Bay. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Gerrit Cole came bouncing out of the dugout at the final out of the Game 5 win over Tampa Bay. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The specter of Gerrit Cole even follows Jim Crane to the golf course. Talk of the most coveted free agent in baseball, the strikeout artist who transformed himself into arguably the best pitcher in the game and an extreme fan favorite in only two seasons in Houston, fills the air at the completely renovated Memorial Park golf course Monday afternoon.
Crane is there with a horde of city dignitaries (Mayor Sylvester Turner included) and Houston sports celebrities (Clyde Drexler, Dan Pastorini, etc..) for a sneak preview of the newly completed course that will host the 2020 Houston Open.
But after he hits the ceremonial first shot on new 400-yard-plus par 4 first hole, the man who saved Houston’s PGA Tour event finds himself talking about Cole rather than doglegs and water carries.
“We’re gonna take a run at it,” Crane says when asked directly about the Astros pursuing Cole in free agency. “I don’t know if we can get to where they want to get. (Agent Scott) Boras is tough to deal with.”
Boras is Cole’s agent — and he’s a well known force in baseball who always attempts to raise Major League Baseball’s salary standards. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine Cole not landing a contract well north of $250 million. The Astros have shown a willingness to pay for elite pitchers. Justin Verlander was extended for $66 million for the next two seasons and Zack Greinke is due $64 million for the next two seasons, though the Diamondbacks are paying part of that under the trade deal.
Those are much shorter deals though, giving the Astros payroll flexibility that signing Cole for $250 million plus would not. It is the sheer length of the contract Cole is likely to sign that makes a Houston deal difficult to imagine.
“Just the length of the contact is a challenge when you’re trying to build a team,” Crane says. “And we’ve spent a lot of money on the ball club.”
Astros fans calling for signing Gerrit Cole above all else may need to consider what above all else truly means. Are you willing to give up on the idea of re-signing both consistent October force George Springer and 25-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa to keep Cole? Springer becomes a free agent after next season. Correa will be up in 2022.
Is Gerrit Cole, as unparalleled a force as he can be, the heart and soul of these dominant Astros? Or are Springer and Correa more crucial to this run? It is a run that has included 311 regular season wins, two American League championships and one World Series title (won without Cole) in the last three seasons.
Those are the real questions — and hard realities — that come into play for this franchise.
Still, the mood at Memorial Park on this Monday is largely a buoyant one as the Astros Golf Foundation celebrates the completely reimagined course and the fact that PGA players will be teeing it up in the heart of the nation’s fourth largest city from now on rather than out in the suburbs. Crane wears an Astros pullover as he takes a few warmup swings and the celebrity players get ready to go off and play the course.
No matter where Gerrit Cole ends up the Astros will keep taking their shots.
For more on the remade Memorial Park golf course, come back to PaperCity.