There wasn’t much doubt that pitcher Gerrit Cole would be leaving the Houston Astros as a free agent after the season: The possible AL Cy Young winner is expected to fetch one of the biggest contracts in MLB history, and Houston already is paying pitchers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke more than $30 million each. Trying to sign Cole would put the Astros in danger of triggering MLB’s luxury tax, something owner Jim Crane has said he hopes to avoid.

But still, the speed with which Cole jettisoned his Astros trappings after Wednesday’s night’s loss to the Nationals in World Series Game 7 was a little off-putting. Minutes after the game ended, Cole was asking whether he could get out of his postgame media duties, reminding a team official that “technically, I’m unemployed.” He had removed his Astros hat, instead wearing one bearing the logo of his agent, Scott Boras.

Cole eventually gave in, speaking to reporters as a “representative of myself.” He said “it was a pleasure to play in Houston,” using the past tense.

On Thursday, however, Cole took to Twitter to thank the Astros and their fans for the welcome he received since he was traded to Houston from Pittsburgh in January 2018.

“Houston, last night was a tough one for us and the heartbreak hasn’t gotten any easier today,” he wrote. “Before I became an Astro I didn’t know much about Houston, but after just two years you have made it feel like home. So here’s what I know now. You have been overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming, and kind to my family and me. The Astros organization has been such a pleasure to play for, the Cranes are indeed special people and great owners. I’ve met lifelong friends on the team and in the community and learned a little about pitching along the way. [winking smiley-face emoji] Playing in front of you is really something special and has been such an honor. The incredible support and passionate roars inspire our team to play at highest level we possibly can. This is a relationship between a team and it’s fans like no other that I know. Thank you for making us better people and better players. This was a great season. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Speaking to the Houston Chronicle, Cole said he was reticent to speak with reporters after the game because he didn’t want to talk about the fact that Astros Manager A.J. Hinch didn’t use him out of the bullpen in Game 7. Nor did he want to talk about his impending free agency.

“I was upset, and my tone did not come off quite the way I wanted it to,” Cole said. “One win away. We had the lead with eight outs to go. It’s just a tough pill to swallow.”

His comment about being “unemployed” was meant to be a joke.

“The comments were intended to be lighthearted, but also truthful in the sense that I don’t want to be talking about free agency and I don’t want to be addressing those comments 20 minutes after such a team loss,” Cole said.

During his year-end news conference Friday, Hinch said he and Cole had agreed on some rules for Cole’s possible Game 7 usage: namely, that Cole wouldn’t appear in the middle of an inning and would not appear if the Astros had a lead. Hinch also asserted that bringing in Cole would not have guaranteed an Astros victory.

“I don’t know what Gerrit Cole would’ve brought in Game 7,” he said. “Maybe he would have had his moment where it was exceptional or maybe he would have given up runs and he would have been overextended. … I’m not gonna second-guess the process that we had in place. We had a really good plan. … Anytime as a manager you make a decision in the seventh inning or later and it doesn’t work, the assumption is the other side would’ve worked out great.”

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