Gerrit Cole is a Cy Young-caliber talent for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the hard-hurling right-hander doesn’t feel as though he’s being financially compensated as such.
Cole, who isn’t arbitration-eligible until the next offseason, signed a one-year deal with the Bucs on Saturday for $531,000—the exact amount he made last year—with a $10,000 bonus if he makes the All-Star team, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
Negotiations were tense, as Cole said the Pirates “threatened a salary reduction to the league minimum” of $507,500 if he didn’t agree to their offer, per Biertempfel.
"When you perform at a level that draws the praise of management, teammates, coaches and fans, you expect appropriate compensation," he said. "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."
The Pirates’ initial offer was for $538,000—$7,000 more than last year’s pay, as it is club policy not to exceed that mark for players who aren’t arbitration-eligible, per Biertempfel.
Cole last year finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting in a year when Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw were so far ahead of the pack that any of the three could’ve won the prestigious award.
Yet Cole’s 19-8 mark with a 3.07 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings over a career-high 208 frames in just his third MLB season showed he’s among the incredible young pitchers on the rise.
The Pirates’ $92.3 million payroll ranks as the 10th-lowest payroll in the majors, per Spotrac. The Houston Astros are the only other 2015 playoff team that pays a lower figure, but they do so with young and cost-effective talent.
Cole said he doesn’t want his teammates to “question the virtue” of the Pirates organization, but it’s hard to imagine negotiations won’t be tense next year when the first overall pick from the 2011 draft can enter arbitration.