By Sam Bush

The Phillies are desperate for pitching and World Series standout Gerrit Cole is a free agent.

So, the rumor is turning quickly as MLB GM’s gather in Arizona.

Cole will be the most coveted starting pitcher on the free agent market this season, and he’s a candidate to sign the biggest contract for a pitcher ever.

He’s an elite strikeout pitcher, he’s topped 200 innings in four of the last five seasons, and since joining the Astros prior to the 2018 season he’s authored a stellar ERA+ of 164.

The Phillies are expected to be among Cole’s most aggressive suitors, according to the Inky’s Matt Breen:

Cole headlines an enticing class of free-agent pitchers that will have the Phillies’ attention.

GM Matt Klentak, according to a source, is heading to Scottsdale with an offseason plan that centers around pitching.

The Phillies neglected their starting rotation last winter, only for it to finish with a 4.64 ERA and one starter — Aaron Nola — who made at least 10 starts and posted an ERA better than 4.00.

The Phillies have a new manager in Joe Girardi, and last winter’s big acquisitions — Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen, among others — return for 2020. The club was already heavily committed to contending in 2019, but despite their efforts they wound up in fourth place in the NL East. As Breen notes, rotation improvements are in order, and Cole quite obviously is the best path toward a better rotation. That said, the Phillies are likely to have plenty of competition for his services. The Angels and Yankees, for instance, are also thought to have designs on the right-hander.

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