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The Houston Astros reportedly made a major addition to their pitching staff Wednesday, trading for Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the two sides reached an agreement shortly after he noted a trade was a “imminent.” Pittsburgh’s return for the pitcher has yet to be revealed.
Morosi added Cole’s salary arbitration for 2018—which has a filing deadline of Friday—has yet to be resolved. The Astros reportedly wanted to finalize a trade so “they can file at their number” rather than take on the Pirates’ salary number, according to Morosi.
Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle spoke to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who would only say that he’s “talked to several teams about possible trades” but said “nothing is imminent.”
Prior to Luhnow’s comments, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that “multiple sources are cautioning” that a deal wasn’t done yet, but he did note that “generally, this sort of thing winds up with a deal being consummated.”
While Cole’s value is apparent given his 3.50 career ERA, he is also under team control through the 2019 season, per Spotrac. This is not a one-year rental, and Houston landed a proven arm who is just 27 years old.
Cole turned heads in 2015 when he made the All-Star Game and posted sparkling numbers. He finished with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 32 starts and 208 innings, all of which were career bests. He helped lead the Pirates to the postseason, but he coughed up four earned runs in five innings during a loss against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game.
Cole also contributed to Pittsburgh’s 2013 postseason run, making two October starts as a rookie. He didn’t flinch under the pressure and posted a 2.45 ERA in those contests.
However, the right-handed hurler has slipped some in recent years. He finished with a career-worst 4.26 ERA in 2017 and career-worst 1.44 WHIP in 2016.
From Pittsburgh’s perspective, losing someone of Cole’s caliber is difficult to swallow, especially as a smaller-market team that doesn’t always attract marquee free agents. However, the Pirates may not have been able to re-sign him when he eventually hit free agency, so they ensured they landed something in return for the ace.
The Pirates aren’t realistic World Series contenders this year, so any return pieces will help restock the organization as it builds toward the future.
While the Pirates focus on the future, Houston can turn its attention toward its World Series defense with another formidable pitcher in tow.
The notion of his serving in a rotation with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel in a playoff series should worry the American League. Houston could have the upper hand in as many as five or six starts in a best-of-seven series following this trade.