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After leading a Houston Astros rotation that reached the World Series in 2019, Cole, 29, is expected to receive a contract of at least eight years in length with a value of up to $280 million, The Athletic reported, citing an executive from a team in the market for his services. A contract of that size should rank among the largest in MLB history.
An eight-year, $280 million contract for Cole would match the record for a pitcher’s annual average salary set by Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to remain with the Nationals. At present, Strasburg owns the MLB record for both the highest annual average salary for a pitcher and the richest contract by overall value.
The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels are frontrunners to acquire Cole, according to multiple reports.
Starting pitchers rarely command salaries or contract lengths on par with positions players who play every day rather than every fifth day. Angels outfielder Mike Trout holds the current MLB record for largest contract in history after signing a 12-year, $426.5 million contract last offseason.
With a $35 million annual salary, Cole would have accounted for more than half of the Tampa Bay Rays’ entire team payroll of $64 million during the 2019 season, according to SpotTrac.com. No player on that team earned more than $15 million last season.
Cole had a dominant season for the Astros, posting a 20-5 record with a league-leading 2.50 earned-run average and 326 strikeouts. The hard-throwing right-hander has made two straight All-Star Game appearances and finished second in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2019.