Cole: Arb win a bigger victory for players to come

February 14th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- By winning his arbitration case against the Astros, pitcher stands to make $2.075 million more this season than if he'd lost. That's a significant victory for Cole, who will double his salary this year and make $13.5 million, and a significant victory for other players to come, the veteran pitcher said.

Three starting pitchers won their cases Wednesday, with Cole joining Cleveland's ($13 million) and Cincinnati's ($9.65 million).

"For me, personally, obviously you're going into a fight and you want to win it," Cole said. "It's just a bigger win for the players in general. There's kind of an artificial ceiling that we broke through this year and I expect guys coming after me to use that to their best of their advantage and continue to move the system forward.

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"We accomplished a lot of things as players this year in arbitration cases so far, from the pitchers' side especially with Alex Wood and Trevor winning as well. We really moved a market, that has been stagnant for a while, forward. I think everybody involved is very proud of it, and the players should see some benefit from it."

Cole said he kept an open mind heading into the hearing and expected to "take some blows."

"That's the whole idea," he said. "One guy walks in and throws the ball one way and another walks in and throws the ball the other way. But with that said, it was a pretty fun process. I liked seeing the business side of it, for sure. I was intrigued by it. I would probably be saying it was an OK process if we lost, but I'll definitely say it since we won."

The Astros have lost five consecutive arbitration hearings since earning a decision against in 2016. also won his case earlier this month.

"It's a process that's not really fun for either side," said president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow. "You both have to come up with a number that you think is fair and let an arbitrator decide. The process works like it should. Congratulations to the players that won their cases. I'm just happy we have them signed, and they're still part of the Astros' organization."

Harper almost an Astro in '18?

Luhnow acknowledged Thursday the team had an "agreement in principle in place" to trade with the Nationals for slugger and former Nationals League Most Valuable Player last summer. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported in November the Astros had a trade in place to land Harper on July 30, but the deal collapsed when Nationals ownership refused to approve the move.

"It didn't get over the finish line for whatever reason. Out of our control," Luhnow said Thursday. "We had interest. We had worked out the players both ways, but those things have approval levels they have to go through, and it didn't happen."

Luhnow pulled off a surprising trade for in the seconds prior to the 2017 Trade Deadline in a move that helped Houston win a World Series, and acquired Cole from the Pirates in January 2018. The Astros and Orioles had a deal in place for closer Zack Britton during the '17 season, but the O's backed out.

"We don't really talk about the deals that didn't happen because they don't happen," Luhnow said. "I think fans would be surprised at the types of players at times that we've gone after, and how close we've come on some of them. It is an indication of every year, during the summer, we're going to look at alternatives to helping our club, especially if we're looking good for the playoffs and we know who our opposition might be in the playoffs. Certainly, a player like [Harper] would have helped us."

McHugh leads finance lecture

Astros pitcher , one of the most well-rounded players in the game, led a lecture in sports finance at a class at Emory University in his hometown of Atlanta in December. McHugh said much of the discussion was about the free market and how it changes of the course of a players' professional career.

"It's what I was passionate about in college, and what I still enjoy learning a lot about sometimes," said McHugh, who attended Berry College in Atlanta. "Seeing these 21 and 22-year-olds and having open conversations with them and seeing how smart these next generation of sports fans are, it's fun."