Although multiple sources said a trade of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros was imminent on Wednesday morning, a deal between the teams was not in place as of Friday afternoon. "We do not have a deal," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart on Wednesday
Although multiple sources said a trade of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros was imminent on Wednesday morning, a deal between the teams was not in place as of Friday afternoon.
"We do not have a deal," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart on Wednesday afternoon. "We are working on multiple things but nothing is imminent."
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand also reported Wednesday that while there was no deal for Cole at the time, one "could still happen."
Cole, 27, finished fourth in the 2015 National League Cy Young Award voting and is coming off a season in which he posted the highest ERA (4.26) of his Major League career. Cole is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2019 season, and one source said the Astros view him as a preferable acquisition to signing free agent Yu Darvish to a contract of five years.
It's not uncommon for major trades to hit a snag before being consummated, and nothing prevents the two teams from reviving the discussion. MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported that at least one other team was actively pursuing Cole as recently as Tuesday night, and it is not the Yankees, one of the clubs Cole has been heavily linked to in trade rumors this offseason.
We do know that Houston is looking to acquire a starting pitcher of Cole's caliber. Astros owner Jim Crane said when asked by MLB.com on Monday that the club is actively pursuing a high-end starting pitcher to add to an already formidable rotation that includes Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton.
Cole was Houston's top target last summer, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. When a deal could not be put together, the team opted for Verlander, who flourished down the stretch and in the postseason for the World Series champions.
Besides Cole and Darvish, the Astros also have been linked to right-handers Jacob Arrieta (via free agency) and Chris Archer (via trade), among others.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, who was first to report the Astros' negotiations with the Pirates about Cole, Houston left fielder Derek Fisher's name has come up in the discussions for Cole, whose contract includes two relatively affordable years of control. In exchange for Cole, Pittsburgh's ace, the Bucs may also seek top talent from the Astros' farm system, such as outfielder Kyle Tucker (Houston's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and the game's No. 8 overall prospect) and right-hander Forrest Whitley (Astros' No. 2, No. 36 overall), though many in the industry believe Whitley is "untouchable."
A first-round pick in 2016 out of San Antonio's Alamo Heights High School, Whitley struck out 143 batters in 92 1/3 innings across three levels in 2017, topping out at Double-A Corpus Christi. And in a recent poll of execs conducted by MLB.com's Jim Callis, the 20-year-old right-hander got one vote as the best overall prospect in baseball and three votes as the best pitching prospect in baseball.
Cole, going through arbitration for the second time, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $6.75 million deal, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That is a $3 million raise over his 2017 salary of $3.75 million. The Astros would inherit the Pirates' figure if they were to go through with the trade.
"I've been told that on paper we have the best team in baseball, but paper doesn't win titles," Crane said on Monday while attending an event at Houston's City Hall to open the club's World Series trophy tour.
"I think with the depth of our farm system, where some of the guys are going to be blocked for some time, it might be prudent to make a move if we can get a deal done that makes sense."