The annual Major League Baseball General Managers meetings open on Monday in Scottsdale, Arizona, with top free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole expected to be the hottest topic of conversation among the baseball executives. But while experts believe that Cole will sign with one of two southern California clubs — either the Angels or Dodgers — at least three other teams could make serious runs at the former Houston Astros 20-game winner, who is a native of Orange County, California.
One of those expected, new suitors could take Cole all the way to the other side of the country from his home state, according to a report on Sunday by MLB.com. That would be the Philadelphia Phillies, who despite opening their checkbook to hand outfielder Bryce Harper a record-setting contract prior to the 2019 season, finished at a disappointing 81-81, well out of playoff contention in the National League East.
“The Phillies are always a contender to spend big, while the Rangers are perceived as a team ready to boost its payroll heading into a new ballpark,” reported MLB.com correspondent Mark Feinsand, writing about the “other” teams that may emerge as contenders to land the 29-year-old Cole.
The San Diego Padres may also be in the hunt for Cole, Feinsand reported. The Padres have already been linked to the offseason’s other top free-agent hurler, Washington Nationals World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego native.
The Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler in October, after two controversial seasons at the helm in which the team failed to top the.500 mark each time, winning just 80 games in 2018. The organization quickly hired former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
In 10 seasons managing the Bronx Bombers, Girardi won 910 games while losing just 710, taking the Yanks to the postseason six times and presiding over the only World Series victory for the 27-time champions since 2000. After signing Harper last offseason, the Phillies may want to provide their new skipper with another upgrade to boost his chances of guiding the club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
With a payroll currently standing at approximately $155.5 million, according to SpoTrac, Philadelphia General Manager Matt Klentak should have the cash to spend on a major acquisition at this week’s meetings in Scottsdale.
Of course, the Yankees are also looked on by MLB experts as a strong potential candidate to sign Cole, according to Feinsand. But as The New York Post reported, longtime New York GM Brian Cashman has yet to tip his hand regarding the team’s offseason plans. Cashman’s targets are likely to come into focus at the Scottsdale meetings, according to the Post report.