I’ve already written that the Dodgers need to spend big this winter — something I’ve been writing seemingly annually for the last handful of years — but this year, I mean it.
Cole, 29, is coming off one of the best seasons by a pitcher this decade and was brilliant in the postseason. In five starts, Cole never pitched fewer than seven innings and won four of those five games. He posted a 1.72 ERA, .515 OPS against, struck out 34 percent of the hitters he faced and walked just 8 percent. If you’re not into traditional stats, how about this?
In 36 2/3 postseason innings, Cole had a 1.3 win probability added — them most of any major leaguer.
Note: Look what happens when your best players show up. Take contemporaneous notes, Dodgers.
With Clayton Kershaw a shell of his former self (but still a quality mid-rotation arm) and Rich Hill & Hyun-Jin Ryu free agents, there might not be a better time for the Dodgers to sign a top-of-the-rotation starter like Cole.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post put it perfectly:
“Under Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have stayed clear of long mega-deals, the philosophy is general: How would we know who is going to be good in 2026? But they have seven straight NL West titles and no championship since 1988, and Cole and/or Rendon make them better without destroying their payroll, especially because big pacts for Justin Turner (after 2020), Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw (both after 2021) expire in the next two years. They can flex if they want to.”
That last part is the key. It has always been the key. The Dodgers can buy any free agent they want. They just haven’t done so under Friedman. As I said up top, I thought Harper was that guy last year, but Cole seems like an even more ideal buy.
Imagine if you will a 1-2 combination of Cole and Walker Buehler for the next 6-8 years — not just in the regular season, but come playoff time. If Buehler’s last three postseason starts are any indication of how good he is, well, that could be the best 1-2 combo in baseball for quite a long time.
Yes, Cole is going to cost a literal fuckton of money. He’s going to best Zack Greinke‘s 6-year, $206 million deal. He’s going to best Kershaw’s original 7-year, $215 million deal and will easily clear his 3/93 extension. He’s going to get more than David Price‘s 7/217 and Max Scherzer‘s 7/210. I think we’re talking a minimum of seven years and a minimum of $32-35 million annually. And it might take an eighth year to put that team over the top.
You know what? It’d be worth it. Cole is the best free agent starter available, and will be for the foreseeable future. Couple that with the fact it’d be hard to find a pitcher even close to his caliber on the trade market (Noah Syndergaard is about the best I could come up with), and that pitcher would cost young players and/or prospects, as well as money. Cole will only cost money and the forfeiting of the Dodgers’ 2nd-round pick — a small price to pay for the best pitcher in the game. He’s going into his age-29 season and figures to be this kind of dominant for at least the first half of the deal. And really, that’s what the Dodgers (or any team) would be paying for. If he improves the Dodgers’ chances of finally getting over the hump, then no price should be too high.
Sure, the Dodgers could sign Anthony Rendon instead (I mean, they could really sign them both, but, well, you know). That would be most welcome. However, it seems like they’d be able to land a premium position player (Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor) easier via the trade market than a top-flight starting pitcher.