Posted on January 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Pittsburgh Pirates Gerrit Cole

Image via usatoday.com

The Houston Astros have acquired Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and this time it’s for real. Earlier this week, there were reports that a deal between these two teams involving Cole had gotten done. However, those reports turned out to be premature. This time, several sources have confirmed that the Pirates have indeed dealt Cole to the reigning world champion Astros. Pittsburgh will receive four players as part of the deal: Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, and Jason Martin.

Cole is not coming off his best season. In 33 starts in 2017, he was 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. However, the 27-year old is still considered one of the best young pitchers in baseball. In 2015, he had a breakout season, winning 19 games and posting a 2.60 ERA. Despite the off year, he was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this winter. The New York Yankees also had interest in acquiring him.

In the end, Cole has ended up with the Astros, not that Houston’s rotation needed another ace. The Astros are already led by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. That would make Cole the no. 3 starter on Houston’s staff. The Astros also have Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh, and Brad Peacock to fill out their rotation. That group of pitchers is arguably the deepest and most talented rotation in baseball.

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For the Pirates, trading away Cole could signal a large scale rebuilding effort. Players like Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison have also been in the rumor mill this winter. If those players are dealt as well, it could be the start of a massive fire sale and send the Pirates into rebuild mode.

That being said, the Pirates have acquired players in this trade that should be able to contribute right away. Musgrove started 15 games last season and could join Pittsburgh’s rotation in 2018. However, he was far more effective last year when pitching out of the bullpen. Feliz is also a young and promising bullpen arm. He had a disastrous second half in 2017 amidst a shoulder injury. But he showed during the first half that he can be a useful late-game reliever.

In Moran, the Pirates get a third baseman who is all but ready for the big leagues. He hit .308 with an OPS of .916 in triple-A last season. He’s also made a cameo in the majors each of the past two years. David Freese is penciled as Pittsburgh’s third baseman last year. However, his power is diminishing and Moran could end up being a long-term solution for the Pirates at the hot corner.

Finally, Martin is ranked as Houston’s no. 15 prospect, according to MLB.com. He’s coming off an impressive season in 2017, finishing the year in double-A. However, he profiles more as a fourth outfielder than an everyday player.

If nothing else, the Pirates will have improved their bullpen considerably through this trade. It’s also possible that they have enough young starters to survive without Cole. The likes of Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow have high-end talent but have yet to put everything together over the course of a full season. The Pirates also have a fair amount of rotation depth, even with Cole out of the picture.

Of course, the Astros are the clear winners of this trade. They acquired Cole without giving up any elite prospects or any player who will be impossible to replace. To be fair, Houston’s bullpen will take a hit. But adding Cole gives them the best rotation in baseball, putting them in a great position to repeat as World Series champions in 2018.

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