No one seemed more ready for free agency than Gerrit Cole did, as he noted immediately following the World Series that he was no longer employed by the Houston Astros and wore a BorasCorp hat - the company owned by his agent, Scott Boras - during his postgame interview.
Steamer projects Cole to be worth another 6.3 WAR and author a 3.00 ERA and 2.84 FIP over 195 innings next year, according to FanGraphs.
There hasn't been a free-agent pitcher who's this good since 2014 when Max Scherzer signed with the Washington Nationals. Consequently, Cole is likely to entice a large number of teams this winter before eventually landing a deal in excess of $200 million.
Let's take a look at some clubs that would be willing to make such a franchise-altering move:
Let's start with the incumbent, especially after Astros owner Jim Crane said the club plans to make a run at retaining the 29-year-old ace.
Ownership may be more willing to open its wallet to re-sign Cole after losing the World Series. That defeat meant the team many thought could become baseball's newest dynasty still has just one championship. The franchise has invested a lot of time and money into this group, and keeping Cole could prop the championship window open for another few years.
The Yankees need to get back to being the Yankees.
Their recent goal of staying under the luxury tax is so antithetical to who the Yankees have been throughout history and, to top it all off, it isn't working. The club's American League Championship Series defeat to the Astros marked the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees didn't make an appearance in the World Series. It's time for Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family to reinvest in this club, and the rotation is its only glaring need.
It's a tragedy that baseball fans haven't witnessed Mike Trout in the playoffs for four straight seasons and just once since he entered the league. Adding to the rotation should be the Angels' first step toward ending that streak.
With Shohei Ohtani set to come back at full strength next year, the Angels are another ace away from becoming a wild-card favorite. This team needs to focus on winning now with Trout still at the peak of his powers, and ownership is no stranger to throwing money around when it needs to. Sure, investments in Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton didn't pan out perfectly, but that doesn't mean the franchise should roll over when it comes to free agency.
The Giants may seem a bit off the board, but a team can still make franchise-defining moves even if it isn't looking to immediately contend.
San Francisco has already benefited from high draft selections the past two years - adding Joey Bart and Hunter Bishop - and will at next year's draft, too. While Farhan Zaidi is only one year into his tenure as the club's president of baseball operations, it's time for him to start thinking of the endgame, and the addition of Cole is a long-term move that could entice future free agents. Plus, Zaidi might have a leg up in recruitment with Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford being Cole's brother-in-law.
Now, for the dark-horse candidate.
After a winter during which the Padres invested in Manny Machado and a season dominated by rookie sensations Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack, San Diego will be looking to make that final move to become a contender. Investing in someone to lead the rotation should be the chief concern of the front office, as Paddack, Joey Lucchesi, and top prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino continue to develop.
A recent report suggested the team considers itself priced out of the Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes, which would mean Cole, too, is out of its grasp. However, Padres fans will hope that's just the front office posturing in an attempt to lower the asking price of free agents.
The Dodgers are in a similar situation to the Yankees. After yet another disappointing exit from the postseason, it's time to reassess the current strategy.
Los Angeles' depth is a huge reason the team has finished first in its division for seven consecutive seasons. However, the Dodgers are dangerously close to being remembered as simply not good enough. Bringing a championship to L.A. should be the only goal for this team, and the Dodgers have no excuse as to why they can't make financial room for Cole.
The Nationals have a bit of a penchant for throwing money at the top pitcher in free agency and, facing the potential loss of Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, ownership may attempt to chase back-to-back World Series titles by adding Cole.
With Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin already sitting atop the rotation, perhaps Washington should focus more on adding offensive help. However, the Nats rode their incredible starting depth to the franchise's first championship, so it could be a recipe they want to continue following.
In addition to the seven teams mentioned above, the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Chicago Cubs also seem like legitimate suitors.