UPDATE: Biertempfel also tweets that the Bucs have never discussed an extension with Cole. It may be that they feel Cole is unlikely to sign one given that Boras is his agent, but it's at least a little surprising if they've never tried anyway.
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Gerrit Cole is annoyed with the Pirates for renewing his contract at $541,000, Rob Biertempfel reports.
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 [plus] a $10,000 bonus for making the All-Star team.
I can understand Cole's annoyance. Biertempfel reports that the Pirates initially offered $538,000, which actually would have been a slight pay decrease -- his base salary would have been higher for 2016 than in 2015, but the only way for him to eclipse his actual dollars paid would have been to make the All-Star Game again. That sounds like nickel-and-diming on the Pirates' part, and I'm not sure that's a smart way to treat a key player. It would have been very easy for them to give him a nominal raise to, say, $550,000.
Cole says that the Pirates told him, though, that a $7,000 raise was the most they could offer him under their system for dealing with pre-arbitration players. It's likely that having a system like this makes it easier for the team to negotiate with the large number of pre-arb players who need new contracts each year and might actually result in fewer players getting annoyed like this. But if the system results in a star being paid less after an outstanding performance the previous year, perhaps it could stand to be altered.
In general, though, it's easy to blow complaints like this out of proportion. The Pirates aren't required under the CBA to give Cole any more than the league minimum, and salaries for players with less than three years of service time tend to be quite close to the minimum.
Biertempfel also quotes Cole's agent Scott Boras, whose comments are his usual blend of entertaining and self-serving.
"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." ...
"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)."
Boras seems to be referring to players like Matt Harvey, who last year was at a similar point to Cole in service time and received $614,000 (far from "well over $650,000," but still significantly more than Cole got), or Jose Fernandez, who got $650,000 from the Marlins. Both are Boras' clients. The Harvey example is a funny one for Boras to obliquely point to, since the increased salary did not prevent Boras from engaging in a very public dispute with the Mets over Harvey's innings pitched last year. It's a reminder that, ultimately, salaries for pre-arbitration players not signed to long-term deals don't matter much. As a gesture of goodwill, though, it might have been nice for the Pirates to ensure that whatever Cole took home in 2016 was more than he got last year.
TL;DR, though: This isn't a big deal, and nobody will remember this in a month.