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World champs add Cole to formidable rotation

Musgrove, Moran among four headed to Pittsburgh in trade
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The team with the deepest lineup in baseball may now lay claim to the deepest pitching rotation.

Less than a week after owner Jim Crane said the Astros were pursuing a high-end starter, the defending World Series-champion Astros reached a deal to acquire hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Pirates on Saturday. The Astros will send pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran, who was Houston's No. 5 prospect (now Pirates' No. 4), and Minor League outfielder Jason Martin, who was Houston's No. 15 prospect (now Pirates No. 18), to Pittsburgh.

HOUSTON -- The team with the deepest lineup in baseball may now lay claim to the deepest pitching rotation.

Less than a week after owner Jim Crane said the Astros were pursuing a high-end starter, the defending World Series-champion Astros reached a deal to acquire hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Pirates on Saturday. The Astros will send pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran, who was Houston's No. 5 prospect (now Pirates' No. 4), and Minor League outfielder Jason Martin, who was Houston's No. 15 prospect (now Pirates No. 18), to Pittsburgh.

"We're excited about this move," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "This move gives us a better chance over the next two years to repeat and hopefully get another championship. That's been our goal all along, to get to the point of competitiveness and win a championship and hopefully win multiple championships. This is the type of move that helps us come closer to that goal."

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Cole, 27, was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Draft out of UCLA. An All-Star who won 19 games in 2015, Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA in 33 starts last year for the 75-win Pirates, allowing 55 walks and 31 homers (tied for second-most in the National League) while striking out 196 batters in 203 innings. He's 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in 127 big league starts.

Video: MLB Tonight: Justice on Astros' trade for Cole

"I'm ecstatic," Cole told MLB.com. "I got the phone call not too long ago, and I was shocked. I couldn't have been more happy. I'm familiar with a few people in the organization and on the team. They're outstanding individuals. ... They have a great identity, they have a great brand of baseball and made the city of Houston proud. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of something like that."

New teammates excited about Cole trade

Tweet from @JustinVerlander: Going for it. #BackToBack

Cole joins a rotation that includes former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. and World Series hero Charlie Morton. The Astros acquired Verlander on Aug. 31 last year and now have him and Cole under contract for two more seasons. Cole on Friday reached a deal with the Pirates for a $6.75 million contract for 2018 to avoid salary arbitration.

Video: McTaggart discusses Astros adding Cole to rotation

The addition of Cole means Brad Peacock, who had a breakout year in 2017, could be moved to the bullpen full time after splitting time in the rotation last year. Veteran Collin McHugh, who missed the first 3 1/2 months last season with an arm injury, could now be a trade candidate.

"We're just trying to load up and have as many top-notch pitchers as possible," Luhnow said. "Clearly, Peacock was a big part of our year last year, McHugh was a big part of our second half. There's roles for both of those guys on our team."

Video: Astros acquire Cole to fortify starting rotation

Cole is close friends with Morton, his former teammate in Pittsburgh, and attended two of the World Series games in Los Angeles last year. Cole is from Orange County, Calif.

"Charlie was a huge, influential piece in my career," Cole said. "Coming up in Pittsburgh, he played a huge, pivotal role when we were in postseason appearances back then. I'm thrilled to be able to work with one my great friends again. The accolades speak for themselves as far as the rest of the rotation. Verlander is a guy every right-handed power pitcher looks up to since the beginning of time."

Luhnow said the Astros talked to Pittsburgh about Cole in July, before the Astros ultimately traded for Verlander on Aug. 31. They renewed discussions at the Winter Meetings, where they met with Pittsburgh's front office. He said the two sides have been in touch at least once a week since early December, and momentum continued. The trade was agreed to early Saturday.

"Gerrit Cole has a long track record of elite performance in college and also in the Major Leagues," Luhnow said. "We expect him to bounce back and be a Cy Young contender, which he was early in his career. We do think he had some bad luck last year, and we're hoping a fresh environment and being in the American League and our staff will help him."

Video: Zinkie on the fantasy impact of Cole to the Astros

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Cole gets a major boost in fantasy value from this trade. While his recent performance (4.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP across 2016-17) creates some cause for concern, the right-hander owns a lifetime 3.50 ERA and could win at least 15 games with the backing of a stellar lineup and solid relief corps next season. But the arrival of Cole dulls fantasy enthusiasm for Peacock and McHugh, who will have trouble cracking the rotation. In Pittsburgh, Musgrove has a chance to crack the Opening Day rotation and could use his solid control over the strike zone (career 3.5 K:BB ratio) to impact 15-team leagues.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole