If you're a Pirates fan, you've probably uttered this phrase at least once over the past year or so: "When in the blue moon are they going to bring up Gerrit Cole from the minors?" Of course, if you've been paying attention to other notable call ups in recent years, and you were in the room when someone asked that question, you might have said, "They'll bring Cole up in June."
It was no real secret why Cole didn't make the Pittsburgh roster coming out of spring training, just like it was no secret when Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez didn't in years past. Baseball has a weird " service time" system in-which a team can hold on to a player for an extra season if he doesn't make his Major League debut until June. Cutch made his debut on June 4th, 2009. Tabata was called up a year later on June 9th, 2010. And Alvarez made his debut a week after that on June 16th.
A lot of people were upset when the pitching phenom didn't make the team at the start of the season, but I wasn't one of them. Really, with the financial constraints on small market teams such as the Pirates, they have to do what's in the best interest for the long-term. Gm Neal Huntington has taken a lot of flack in recent years, but you can't blame him for wanting to get an extra year of eligibility out of every highly-touted prospect. Let's face it, if Cole comes as advertised and is the talent many think he can be, when he does become an unrestricted free agent, Pittsburgh will not be able to retain him.
The going rate for the top pitchers in MLB is roughly $20 million a season. The Pirates two highest paid players--pitchers A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez--are making $16.5 million and $13 million this season, respectively. But the Yankees are picking up a large portion of Burnett's salary, and the Astros are doing the same with Rodriguez. In other words, the Pirates aren't paying any player $20 million and probably won't any time soon--including six years from now when Cole will be eligible for free agency--so, basically, if Cole is the pitcher everyone hopes he can be, by waiting until now to call him up, the Pirates are giving us an extra year to enjoy him before he leaves.
Trading a few months for another season seems like the right move.
On to the good stuff.
Cole will be making his debut for the Pirates when he starts against the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, Tuesday night at PNC Park.
It's obviously an historic event, considering Cole's potential, but it's not garnering the same national attention that Stephen Strasburg's debut received back on June 8th, 2010, against Pittsburgh. Strasburg cemented his phenom-status by striking out 14 Pirates. Of course, I have no doubt it was a strategic move by his Washington Nationals team to sort of "hand-pick" an opponent that would go on to finish with over 100 losses.
Hey, it worked. Strasburg made a splash.
If Cole is going to make a splash, he'll have to do so against a more formidable foe, Tuesday night.
The water will be a bit choppy. Hopefully Cole is a natural swimmer.