Padres Lessons to Learn from Gerrit Cole Handling

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Sep 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitches to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitches to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Padres were able to avoid arbitration this off-season when they agreed to terms with Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner. Cashner will be a free agent after this year and Ross the year after that. I talked then about how these small moments can have long term effects on the future of the franchise. The Pittsburgh Pirates and ace Gerrit Cole, not even yet to arbitration, were not.

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The algorithm they use to compute player values from 1-3 years failed to take into account his $10,000 bonus from last season, resulting in the fact that the Pirates originally offered him less than he made last season; a year he made the All Star Team and was fourth in NL Cy Young voting. According to the Pittzburgh Tribune Review report, Cole was quite unhappy with the results:

“When you perform at a level that draws the praise of management, teammates, coaches and fans, you expect appropriate compensation. I understand the business of this game, but it is hard to accept that a year of performance success does not warrant an increase in pay.”

Worse yet – when Cole expressed his frustration the Pirates offered to only pay him the league minimum. Not exactly the best way to treat your best pitcher. Or is it?

On the other side of this is perhaps the millennial trait of simply deserving more without putting in the time and work to earn it. Despite Gole’s obvious success, the Pirates have their formula for handling these situations and Cole would put that in danger for all future players. Where do you draw the line if you do break the rule for Cole? If someone finishes in the top 15 for Rookie of the Year do they get more? Tenth in the MVP voting?

The Pirates are a small market team – like the Padres – who do not have the lavish disposable income that the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other teams have. As the Padres think about next season and how they will treat Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross – actions like this will affect how those players view the team.

GM Neil Huntington said this about the situation: “We can empathize with him. At the same time there is a system in place that is negotiated by the union and by Major League Baseball,”

Next: Has Jamaal Charles Lost a Step?

I wrote recently the trend of some players staying with teams that they believe in – from Alex Gordon to Dexter Fowler this off-season alone. While the Padres have a long way to go to prove to key younger pieces like Cashner, Ross, and Wil Myers at the least they have avoided faux paus that would nearly eliminate them from future contention. The agent for Cole is Scott Boras admittedly, so the chances of Cole taking any sort of discount is unlikely, but at least there was a chance. Jered Weaver took such a discount a few years ago, and the Royals are being pro-active this season in wanting to adjust catcher Salvador Perez‘ contract to pay him more now to make up for a team friendly contract. Of course a World Series win and two consecutive AL pennants also adds some extra cash flow to make that happen.

The ways teams deal with contracts and young players is changing in this wild card era where more teams than ever are in contention from Day 1 until Day 162. Keeping young players carries more importance and in the bloated market where a 1 year $7M deal for Ian Desmond is seen as a “low ball” deal for Desmond, managing budgets with multiple annual double digit salaries is a major balancing act. A lot to keep an eye on as the season progresses. If Andrew Cashner has that break-out season we have been waiting for, will the Padres be able to keep him?

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