HOUSTON — Free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole has rejected the Astros' qualifying offer to remain in Houston.

Here's what that means.  If Cole, who is a free agent, signs with another team before the 2020 MLB draft, the Astros will get a compensation draft pick.

Just because he's rejected the offer doesn't mean he's definitely heading out of town. The team can still sign him. The qualifying offer was just a way for Houston to possibly get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

Cole was dominant for the Astros this season, coming in second in Cy Young Award voting.  He’s considered the top free agent in baseball.

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Late last month, Cole tweeted an open letter to the city of Houston, thanking fans for how they treated him while he played for the Astros.   Below is verbatim from that letter.

To Houston:

 "Houston, last night was a tough one for us and the heartbreak hasn’t gotten any easier today. 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. Playing in front of you is really something special and has been such an honor. The incredible support and passionate roars inspire