Pirates Rumors: Yankees Interested In Gerrit Cole
In an offseason with many questions regarding what the Pirates will do with franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen, the first rumor about Gerrit Cole has come out.
The Winter Meetings are underway, and the first big rumor about the Pirates is out. Jon Heyman, writer for FanRag Sports and insider for MLB Network, has reported the Yankees have interest in Gerrit Cole, though he also says the Pirates aren’t going to be trading for him.
Cole is coming off a season in which he saw his home run rate spike to 3.65 percent, which is the second highest percent increase from 2016-17 of pitchers who tossed 100 innings in each season. With the home run increase came a career high 4.26 ERA (100 ERA-), though on the positive side, he saw his strikeout rate jump back to 23.1 percent, right around where he always has been outside 2016. Cole also tossed 200 innings for the second time in his career, which would be the Yankees team leader in 2017.
The interest by the Yankees isn’t a surprise. As Heyman notes, New York drafted Cole out of high school with the 28th overall pick in 2008. With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees could look to solidify their rotation and build one of the more complete teams in baseball for the next several years.
The Yankees current rotation features Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery, so they do need a starter to fill off the rotation. Severino is projected by Depth Charts to lead the Yankees in innings with 188 and fWAR with 4.4, with Tanaka and Gray projected at 3.3 fWAR and 3.0 fWAR respectively. Cole is currently projected for 200 innings and a fWAR of 3.8 by Depth Charts, which would slide him into a number two role for New York. By trading for Cole, the Yankees would have one of the best rotations in the league, especially come the postseason with Severino, Cole, Tanaka, and Gray as the top four.
On the other side of the coin, the Pirates would likely receive two headline prospects in the form of a 55 grade hitter and 50 grade pitcher. Prospects that would fit that include outfielder Clint Frazier, third baseman Miguel Andujar, and pitcher Albert Abreu. Add in a lottery prospect or two, such as infielder Thairo Estrada, would seem to be the general framework of a deal between the two clubs.
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However, as Heyman noted, the Pirates aren’t trading him, at least right now. The team is currently projected to be the sixth best team in the National League at 81-81, only a game worse than Arizona. The National League is once again very top-heavy, so there is a viable path to the postseason for the Pirates, one that would have to include Gerrit Cole. There’s no reason to expect a Cole trade, but the Yankees do seem to be one of the teams that would match well, and one that will have interest most of this offseason.