Pirates would listen to trade offers for Cole

Bucs boast rotation depth but not actively shopping Opening Day starter

December 11th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Yankees used a first-round Draft pick on in 2008, three years before the Pirates made Cole the first overall pick out of UCLA. Could Cole's career come full circle with a trade to New York?

The Yankees are interested in acquiring Cole, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Monday, the first day of the Winter Meetings. That doesn't necessarily mean a trade is imminent, or even that one will take place this offseason, but the Pirates will listen to offers for their Opening Day starter.

The Bucs won't shop Cole this winter, just as they didn't actively try to unload last winter, because Cole has two years of club control remaining. There is no urgency to make a deal, and Cole's salary -- projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to be $7.5 million next season -- is reasonable.

But if the Pirates choose to rebuild around their young core, rather than the current group headed by Cole and McCutchen, this would be a reasonable time to field offers for both and maximize their potential return.

After bolstering their lineup with reigning National League MVP , the Yankees are seeking a starter. Why not Cole, a childhood Yankees fan and clearly someone they've liked in the past? The Stanton trade left them with a surplus of young outfielders, including former top prospect , and they have a deep farm system to trade from.

Dealing Cole would leave the Pirates with a hole atop their rotation, but they have plenty of depth. , , , , and will all return next year. and will begin next season in Triple-A, and top pitching prospect Mitch Keller is not far behind in Double-A.

The Pirates have openly discussed the likelihood that their rotation depth will force at least one qualified starter into the Opening Day bullpen.

"I guess a natural transition is, if we were able to have an opportunity to utilize one of our starters -- be it one of our young starters, one of our veteran starters -- in a trade that we thought made the organization better, I would think that would make sense for us," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.

After an injury-marred 2016, Cole bounced back with a healthy but inconsistent season. The 27-year-old righty finished 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA, 196 strikeouts and a career-high 31 homers allowed in 203 innings.

Around the horn

• The Pirates claimed shortstop off waivers from the Phillies. Since September, Vielma has been claimed by San Francisco, Philadelphia and now Pittsburgh. If he remains in the organization, the 23-year-old infielder will begin next season in Triple-A.

Regarded as a strong defensive shortstop, Vielma owns a career .256/.316/.302 slash line in the Minors, but Huntington said the Pirates see "hitter traits" in the switch-hitting infielder. They now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

"Our guys like the athlete, and they think it's an interesting player to take a chance on," Huntington said.

• Huntington said the Pirates have not limited their search for bullpen help to left-handers. That would seem to be the best fit, however, as closer is the only experienced lefty reliever on their 40-man roster.

Brault could be an option for the bullpen. Huntington said the Pirates "want to respect the body of work" from their five primary starters last season -- Cole, Nova, Taillon, Kuhl and Williams -- but they won't "close the door" on someone like Brault or Glasnow cracking the Opening Day rotation.