Gerrit Cole, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a Few Thousand Dollars

As was reported over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Gerrit Cole seem to have had a little disagreement over the 2015 All Star’s salary for the 2016 season. And Cole is rather upset to say the least.

First reported by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the disagreement between Cole and the team could bring about long-term consequences for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Due to still being arbitration eligible, Cole is more or less at the mercy of the organization when it comes to his salary. After making just $531,000 in 2015, with a 10,000 bonus for making the All Star Game, Cole is slated to earn the same amount in 2016. According to reports, the initial offer from the Pirates was for $538,000, or $3,000 less than the salary Cole made in 2015.

Eventually the Pirates gave Cole an ultimatum: sign the contract for $541,000, or else the team would lower his salary to the league minimum salary, which currently sits at $507,500. Obviously Cole grudgingly agreed to the $541,000 figure, but he has made it fairly clear that he is not at all happy with how the Pirates handled the negotiations.

Despite the reaction from Cole, the Pirates insist that it is team policy that a player can only be given a salary raise of a maximum $7,000. For Cole, that would mean the $538,000 figure that the Pirates initially offered Cole. Despite this rule seemingly playing a part, the Pirates still ended up giving Cole the $3,000 increase over that supposedly maximum figure.

Regardless of who is right or wrong in this situation, and that depends entirely on what perspective someone takes, this behavior just doesn’t make sense for the Pirates. Cole is the obvious ace of the staff, and is arguably the sort of pitcher the Pirates should hope to build around long term. Despite this, the Pirates were stingy over what amounted to a few thousand dollars. In the grand scheme of things, the Pirates should really be doing all they can to keep their ace happy in Pittsburgh, especially given their small-market status.

Once Cole does become a free agent, it’s hard to believe that he (or his agent, Scott Boras) will forget about how they were treated by the Pirates over what amounts to pennies in the Pirates’ overall team salary. From Cole’s perspective, he has every right to feel slighted by the team that drafted him. Coming off the best season of his career, Cole’s demands were completely fair. If the Pirates have burned this bridge because of a few thousand dollars, they are going to deeply regret it. If Cole does not choose to re-sign with the Pirates, it won’t be hard to understand why he made that decision. It seems that the Pirates have forced his hand.

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