Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole on the Trading Block?


Rumors: The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have a lineup that is missing two key parts in Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang.  They also have a starting rotation that has performed well so far, but many believe  they cannot sustain the early season success into the dog days of summer.

Last year at the trade deadline, Andrew McCutchen‘s name surfaced in trade talks.  This was not reported until this past off-season, but it made some sense.  The Pittsburgh Pirates were essentially out of it and were looking to trade off assets to get more help for 2017.  This was made obvious when they traded Mark Melancon.  At the time, McCutchen still had over two years of team control left, but that did not stop the Pittsburgh Pirates from listening to offers on him.  The reported team was the Washington Nationals, who then rekindled talks this past off-season.  Other teams like the Seattle Mariners, the New York Mets, and the Toronto Blue Jays reportedly showed interest as well.

Why would the Pittsburgh Pirates look to trade the former MVP with two years of control left?  The same reason Buster Olney thinks that the Pittsburgh Pirates may entertain trade offers for their ace Gerrit Cole.  Olney wrote this in one of his latest Insider Columns over at ESPN.  The main reason Olney notes is that Cole is a Scott Boras client.  Boras is the toughest agent to deal with in terms of signing contract extensions.  He has also churned out some of the biggest contracts in baseball in recent years.  He does a great a job by holding out and squeezing as many years and as much money out of interested teams, especially for his high-end clients.

Why would they? Typical.

Due to the way Boras negotiates, Olney believes the Pittsburgh Pirates may trade Cole before he reaches his last year of arbitration.  There are multiple other reasons to take into account other than Boras however.  First, rising cost of arbitration.  Pitchers typically do very well for themselves in arbitration.  Cole will be entering his last two years of arbitration after this season.  If he pitches to his career numbers, he very well could earn almost 30 million over those next two years.  This is a price that the Pittsburgh Pirates have never coughed up for a player in arbitration.

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In addition to his cost, the Pittsburgh Pirates may feel that they will receive a more significant return for Cole now compared to the worth they would get in keeping him.  Now a days, teams are quick to let go of premium talent for proven quality starting pitching.  Furthermore, having two years of control increases Cole’s value on the market.

Chris Sale, who had three years of control, was dealt for four prospects, including one of the top hitting prospect in baseball and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.  The other two prospects also fell in the White Sox top 10 and top 30 lists respectively.  Did the White Sox want to trade Chris Sale? No.  Did it make them a better team this year? No. However, the White Sox know that the deal could pay off as soon as 2018.  The Pittsburgh Pirates may have a similar philosophy if things are not going well by the trade deadline this year.

Is it Likely?

Gerrit Cole may or may not be on the trading block.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the most quiet teams in terms of trade rumors.  Buster Olney is not saying that the Pirates are looking to trade Cole, but that they could look to under certain circumstances.  With that being said, during the season it does not seem likely.  Even if the Pittsburgh Pirates are out of it at the deadline, it is abnormal to see block-buster deals go down midseason.  However, talks could stir up some, but they likely would become more relevant in the winter.  For now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are still in the thick of things and it does not seem like this will be the case for this season.