Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Prospects from Yankees for Cole

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Over the last three days, the strongest rumor for the Pittsburgh Pirates has been surrounding Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees.

Multiple reports have surfaced that the New York Yankees are very interested in Gerrit Cole.  The first reports came via Jon Heyman and Buster Olney.  Both reported that while the Pittsburgh Pirates are open to moving Cole and the Yankees have interest, the Bucs do not feel pressured to move him.  Meanwhile, yesterday, Olney expanded saying that Cole has been one of the most popular trade targets at the Winter Meetings.  It has been reported that the Rangers, Brewers, and Orioles have also approached the Bucs about Cole.  However, the team with the best farm system is the Yankees, and it is the most logical destination.  The Yankees drafted Gerrit Cole back in 2008, they want to add a top flight arm, but also want it to be financially cheaper.  Cole checks all the boxes for the Yanks.

With that, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported tonight that while a deal is not close, the Pirates have started to take a closer look at the Yankees young players. So who are some of the top prospects that the New York Yankees could offer the Pittsburgh Pirates in a potential deal? Let’s take a look at their top five prospects.

Top Prospects Unlikely

Gleyber Torres is their top prospect and one of the top prospects in baseball.  The former Cubs prospect went to the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline in exchange for Aroldis Chapman.  However, Torres underwent Tommy-John surgery this past season.  Also, he is most likely not available.  The Yankees like Torres a lot, and likely view him as their future second baseman, especially with Starlin Castro out of the picture this season.

Chance Adams is their number two prospect.  He is a right-handed pitcher who spent a majority of his 2017 season at Triple-A.  He threw to a 2.89 ERA and struck out 103 hitters in 115.1 IP.  His fastball sits around 95 miles per hour and he also has a plus slider.  Along with those two pitches, he has a curveball and changeup that are both considered to be average.  The Yankees will look to hang on to their top pitching prospect.  He is likely their first pitcher up when they need another starter.  Meanwhile, he may not be the type of pitcher the Bucs look for.  His fastball is considered to be relatively flat, and he only produced a 41 percent groundball rate at Triple-A.  Also, he is only 6’1”, which would be well undersized in comparison to the righty pitchers the Bucs normally pick up.

Likely Top Prospects

The Yankees number four prospect is Justus Sheffield.  He would be more likely available in a deal compared to Adams.  Sheffield does not fit in terms of size, just standing at 5’11”, but makes up for it by being a southpaw.  The former first-round pick came to the Yankees from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade in 2016.

For his size and being a left-handed, Sheffield has a good fastball, as it sits 92-94 miles per hour and can reach 95.  He made 17 starts at the Double-A level this past season, so he likely would not be MLB ready until closer to the fall or even 2019, another reason New York could be more willing to part with him.  He had a 3.18 ERA and produced a 46.8 percent groundball rate.  Also, he saw his K/9 drop below eight for the first time in his career.  Still, he is considered one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, and he could potentially be MLB ready this season.

Third Base Prospect

The other likely target that would make sense for the Pittsburgh Pirates is third base prospect Miguel Andujar.  Andujar is MLB ready as he made his début last season.  However, he could be expendable with Gleyber Torres in AAA, along with current MLBers Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes more than capable of playing the infield.  Also, there is the thought that the Yankees would retain Todd Frazier.  So Andujar is very much expendable and would make a ton of sense for the Pirates.  The Bucs most glaring hole on the team is third base and Andujar would immediately fill that hole.  Andujar hit .315 with 16 homers between AA and AAA this past season.  Obviously, the bat is there, and it would fill a position of need for the Bucs.

Next: Texas Rangers in on Cole

As of now, nothing is imminent between the two sides.  The biggest thing is that Gerrit Cole is very affordable over the next two seasons.  The New York Yankees are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold next season.  Also, they would like to hang on to their top two prospects.  The completely rebuilding Tigers would demand one of the top two prospects and some for the even longer controlled Michael Fulmer, who the Yankees have interest in. If the Bucs can land Andujar and Sheffield as the headliners, they should consider the trade. The Bucs and Cole seemed destined for a divorce this off-season, and the Yankees have the pieces to make a deal that will be good for both sides.