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Should the Angels Sign Gerrit Cole?

A large portion of the baseball blogosphere has the Los Angeles Angels signing Gerrit Cole. The reasons offered are twofold: 1) Cole is from Orange County (Newport Beach) and 2) the Angels don’t want to waste any more of Mike Trout’s prime years. I think that the Angels signing Cole is somewhat unlikely because the Angels are just too far away from competing.

The Angels won 72 games last year. Kole Calhoun (now a free agent) was worth 2.5 wins so let’s say that they are a 70 win team at this point. Their current payroll all in is $139.9 million according to Spotrac. So let’s say that they can burn through $100 million in additional salary in 2020 to get them to $240 million.

Baseball contracts are generally front end loaded in terms of value. So while you pay roughly $10 million per win, you get more wins in the first couple of years than at the end of the contract. So a Gerrit Cole would cost roughly $5 million per win in year 1 ($35 million divided by 7 wins, roughly). So $100 million of contracts like that could get you 20 wins ($100 million divided by $5 million). Which gives you a 90 win team (70+20). 90 wins puts you on the heels of the Rays who had 96 wins in 2019 and secured the second wildcard spot. And maybe the Angels get a boost from some top prospects and they are in the thick of it in 2020.

The thing is that those contracts come back to bite you at some point. And if the Angels do this, they will be stuck with $100 million worth of bad contracts at some point. Which is sort of where they are now with Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.

So this would be a pretty crazy thing for the Angels to do. Just adding Cole would just get them to 77 wins or so. It seems unlikely that they can be contenders in the next 2 years without going whole hog into free agency. And a spending spree would leave the franchise in another mess within a few years. There is also the question of why baseball’s top pitcher would want to play for a team with such poor prospects of competing for a championship.

But … this is the Angels. So you never know.


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