Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Inbox: Will Pirates really trade Cole?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
MLB.com @adamdberry

I read the Twins have asked about Gerrit Cole. I don't think he's an ace, but he's as good as we've got. Will the Pirates really trade him?
-- Tom G., Pittsburgh

I expect there will be plenty of reports about teams that are interested in Cole. That's the nature of the offseason rumor mill, a small-market team like the Pirates and a young top-of-the-rotation pitcher nearing free agency like Cole. I also expect Cole will start for Pittsburgh on Opening Day in Detroit.

I read the Twins have asked about Gerrit Cole. I don't think he's an ace, but he's as good as we've got. Will the Pirates really trade him?
-- Tom G., Pittsburgh

I expect there will be plenty of reports about teams that are interested in Cole. That's the nature of the offseason rumor mill, a small-market team like the Pirates and a young top-of-the-rotation pitcher nearing free agency like Cole. I also expect Cole will start for Pittsburgh on Opening Day in Detroit.

:: Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox ::

If the Pirates were rebuilding, this might be the time to trade Cole because they'd get a better return for a starter with two years of club control remaining. But if they intend to contend next year -- and by all accounts, they do -- then he is a critical part of their plan.

Cole is coming off a down year in some regards, largely due to an inflated home run rate and a brutal four-start stretch, but he still showed impressive durability and stuff and graded out as Pittsburgh's most valuable pitcher by Wins Above Replacement. They don't have a replacement ready atop the rotation. And his rising salary, even for the Bucs, is not yet an issue.

If Cole has a strong first half and the Bucs fall out of the race, he could be a trade candidate at the next non-waiver Trade Deadline. I think it's more realistic to expect a move next offseason, when he will be one year away from free agency and Pittsburgh's young pitchers have another season of experience under their belts.

Video: CHC@PIT: Cole fans eight over eight scoreless innings

I'm sure the Pirates will listen to offers for Cole between now and then -- that's just good business -- but he's still the best bet to lead their rotation in 2018.

What can the Pirates do with all their international money? Could we get Shohei Ohtani or Kevin Maitan?
-- Matt N., Columbus, Ohio

They have the fourth-highest available bonus pool ($2,266,750) behind the Rangers, Yankees and Twins. It's a good time to have that money on the international front considering the availability of Ohtani, the dual threat from Japan who can sign with any team, and the recently released Braves prospects headlined by Maitan, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop ranked No. 38 overall by MLBPipeline.com.

It's unlikely the Pirates will land Ohtani, but they can add talent to their system by pursuing those former Atlanta prospects during a special signing period that runs from Dec. 5-Jan. 15. Given their past tendencies, it's more likely they will sign a handful of lower-cost prospects to add depth -- "quantity vs. the large bet," as Bucs general manager Neal Huntington recently put it.

The Pirates also could trade some of their international bonus pool to another club that might be gearing up for a run at Ohtani. For instance, the Mariners recently dealt hard-throwing relief prospect Thyago Vieira to the White Sox and received $500,000 in slot money.

What are the chances the Pirates bring Neil Walker back on a one- or two-year contract? Bring the Pittsburgh Kid home.
-- Cory M., Carson City, Nev.

The Pirates have at least "some interest" internally, as MLB Network Insider Jon Paul Morosi reported, but that's the extent of it thus far. Walker would answer questions in Pittsburgh's infield and lineup, and he's obviously beloved locally.

Video: MIL@CIN: Walker opens the scoring with a solo smash

I don't think it will happen, as teams with deeper pockets -- like the Angels and Mets -- also have a need at second base. The Pirates could use Walker's bat, but they also like the infield depth provided by Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and Max Moroff.

I keep hearing about when Andrew McCutchen will be gone, and that the team won't (or can't afford to) re-sign him. What I haven't heard is what it might take to actually retain him. Any idea?
-- Wayne M., Batavia, Ill.

You probably haven't heard about it because it's unlikely to happen, and because this is such a special case, it's hard to estimate. But for the sake of context, consider a few recent contracts for veteran outfielders who were either free agents or nearing free agency.

Justin Upton leveraged his opt-out clause into a five-year, $106 million deal with the Angels. Yoenis Cespedes got four years and $110 million from the Mets last year. Back in 2013, the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year, $153 million contract, and Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford signed similar deals before that.

One recent small-market example below the $100 million mark came in January 2016, when the Royals re-signed Alex Gordon for a franchise-record four years and $72 million. That's still an average of $18 million per year, which would cover a big portion of the Pirates' payroll.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates