Cole upset at Pirates over salary |

Cole upset at Pirates over salary

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole poses for a portrait on photo day Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. – Gerrit Cole is the emerging star of the Pirates' starting rotation.

As the team set his salary for 2016, however, Cole feels he was treated like a second-class player.

On Saturday, Cole grudgingly signed a deal for $541,000 in base salary. That's the same amount he made last year — $531,000 in base pay play a $10,000 bonus for making the All-Star team.

According to Cole, the team's initial offer last week was for $538,000 – which was less than his total pay last year. The team refused to go higher than $541,000.

“They even threatened a salary reduction to the league minimum if I did not agree,” Cole said.

The major league minimum salary is $507,500. Cole's new contract includes the same $10,000 All-Star bonus.

General manager Neal Huntington did not return a phone call from the Tribune-Review.

Cole said club officials explained their initial offer was $538,000 because a $7,000 raise is the maximum allowed under the team's salary system for players who are not eligible for arbitration.

“What kind of message does that send to players?” Cole's agent, Scott Boras, said. “The best deserve the best. You should reward the best. I can't believe that is a Bob Nutting-approved (salary) system. It doesn't ring with the conversations Bob and I had when Gerrit signed.”

The Pirates gave Cole an $8 million signing bonus after they made him the first overall pick in 2011. At the time, it was the largest bonus ever given an amateur player.

“I would think Bob would want to reward a guy for a special performance,” Boras said. “Other teams have that system. If Gerrit was with the Mets, he'd get well over $650,000. If he was with the Marlins, he'd get more (than the Pirates will pay).”

Last year, Cole ended up tied for second in the National League with 19 victories, finished 10th in the league in strikeouts, and was fourth in Cy Young Award voting. Manager Clint Hurdle chose Cole to be the starting pitcher in the NL wild-card game against the Chicago Cubs.

“When you perform at a level that draws the praise of management, teammates, coaches and fans, you expect appropriate compensation,” Cole 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.”

Any “zero-to-three” player — that is, one who has less than three years' service time in the majors — must accept whatever contract his team extends to him. If the player refuses to sign it, the contract can be imposed at a lower rate.

Cole has pitched in 73 games over the past 2½ seasons. In that span, the 25-year-old right-hander is 40-20 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.

Cole will be eligible for salary arbitration after this season. He can become a free agent after the 2019 season.

On Saturday, Cole's teammates elected him their representative to the players' union. Cole replaced Neil Walker, who was traded to the New York Mets in December.

Cole said he does not want his displeasure over his contract situation to become a distraction as the Pirates ramp up their spring training.

“I don't want anyone in this locker room to question the virtue of our organization,” Cole said.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.