By: Lou Landers – https://twitter.com/LandersTalks
He was arguably the best pitcher in MLB this season. Utterly dominant and he is in for a huge pay day; potentially in the 7 years for 250 million range. The Astros would love to resign him, but with the money they are paying to Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman, it seems highly unlikely. Cole has already distanced himself from the Astros since their loss in game 7 of the World Series.
That leaves me thinking that there are 2 teams with a legitimate shot to add Cole. Of course every team will be interested, but most can’t afford him and I think he has his mind made up about where he would like to go:
First there is the Angels, they need pitching desperately and Cole is a California kid. It almost makes too much sense for him to join the Angels, a team that might need pitching more than anyone else in baseball, especially after locking up super-star Mike Trout. The tragic death of Tyler Skaggs has only created more of a need for the Angels in their rotation, and although Cole might not be enough to get them to the postseason, adding him would have them on the right path.
The second team to pay close attention to is the New York Yankees whose need for a big time SP is pretty evident. They have the money to spend if ownership gives GM Brian Cashman the green light, and Cole grew up as a big time Yankees fan. The Yankees have already tried to acquire Cole twice, once when they drafted him out of high school, and once when they tried to trade for him from the Pirates. Imagine a starting rotation of Cole, Severino, Paxton, Tanaka and German in the Bronx next season. That rotation with their bullpen and lineup would make them an instant favorite to win the 2020 World Series.
Mad Bum is definitely not the same pitcher he was from years ago when the Giants went to 3 World Series in 5 years. With that being said, he is still a front line starter who can eat innings and bring a winning culture to any organization. He is a proven playoff performer, in fact, he might go down in history as one of the best post season pitchers ever. That in and of itself is enough for him to garner tons of attention this offseason from potential suitors.
The Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Phillies all strike me as teams who could not only use another SP, but as teams who would be willing to dish out the money for Mad Bum and also represent cities in which Mad Bum would be happy to go play for. The Braves and Cardinals would only strengthen their teams with a move like this, having both been to the post season in 2019. For the Phillies, their starting pitching is their biggest roster hole right now, they not only need another pitcher atop their rotation to go with Aaron Nola, but they need a LHSP. Over the past 3 seasons, no team has had less games started by a LHP. For the Angels, well I already talked about their need for SP, they will be in on someone, and if Cole proves to be too pricey, MadBum might be their next best option.
Personally I see Ryu staying in LA with the Dodgers. He is comfortable there and the Dodgers need him, even with Kershaw and Buehler still in the rotation.
Ryu is coming off a career year, he is in the NL Cy Young award conversation and because of his injury history, he is likely not going to require the same long term commitment as the pitchers that I have already mentioned. He will definitely receive a qualifying offer, which is around 17.5 million this season, but i think he is more likely to get a 3 year, 60 million dollar deal from the Dodgers and sign that instead. It would pay him 20 million annually, so more than what the qualifying offer is and it would give him some longer term security.
Ryu is 32 years old, so to expect anyone to dish out more than 3 years would be unrealistic. However, if the Dodgers aren’t willing to and he is seeking something longer, that might be the best bargaining chip for a rival organization. This is a bit of a dark horse team, however the San Diego Padres might make more sense for Ryu than you might think. They have been in the market for an ace caliber pitcher to help lead their rotation, and rather than having to trade a handful of prospects to get a Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber or Noah Syndergaard, they can sign Ryu who is not only familiar with pitching in the NL West but in signing him they get better while their division rival Dodgers gets worse.
He was pretty solid for the Braves once they brought him into the fold in June. He is far removed from the pitcher who won an AL Cy Young award with the Astros, which is one of the reasons why he took so long to sign this past season. There is no way he wants to wait that long again to sign, and he likely wont have to for a couple reasons.
First of all, the Braves want him back, and he likes it in Atlanta. The fact that there is mutual interest leads me to believe that he ends up back with the Braves. He was their game 1 and game 5 pitcher in the NLDS, clearly he means a lot to the organization moving forward.
The bigger factor to consider here is that Keuchel will not have a qualifying offer attached to him this year, because a player cant be offered it twice. Should he chose to leave Atlanta and test the free agent market, teams will not have to worry about losing a draft pick in order to sign him. It held teams back last offseason and now that it won’t this time around, it opens the door for a lot more interested parties. The teams who lose out on the 3 pitchers I already mentioned will be involved for Keuchel, who despite not being ace caliber any more, still has a lot left in the tank and he brings a wealth of experience come playoff time. He has also proven that he can handle pitching in both the AL and NL, something that although seems like it’s not a big deal, has proven to be for other pitchers in the past.
One team that I haven’t mentioned yet for Keuchel or any of the pitchers above is the Minnesota Twins. They need to upgrade their rotation, in fact they might lose Jake Odorizzi in free agency. Keuchel would be the perfect fit for them and he would benefit from pitching in what is by far the least competitive division in MLB.
In the next 7-10 days I will be releasing a similar article, detailing 4-5 impending free agent hitters. Until then, thanks for reading and let me know where you think these players will end up. Find me @LandersTalks (https://twitter.com/LandersTalks) on Twitter.