Editorial: With the Gerrit Cole trade a couple of days ago, many fans, local media, and national insiders gave their reactions on the Pittsburgh Pirates trade.
When the Gerrit Cole rumors first started, many fans expected a franchise-altering deal to come back. Many believed that the Pittsburgh Pirates would net a deal similar to the one that the White Sox got for Chris Sale or Jose Quintana last year. It seemed to be the case too. The Bucs were in deep talks with the New York Yankees at one point, and names like Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Chance Adams – three of their top five prospects – were talked about. The asking price by the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to be even higher when a report leaked that they were asking for top prospect Gleyber Torres. When the Yankees said no, it was reported that the Pirates backed away and would not lower their asking price.
So when initial reports about the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros being in deep talks regarding Cole surfaced, many expected multiple top prospects. Names like Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker were expected to be part of the return, the two top prospects in the Astros’ farm system. Also, Derek Fisher, a MLB ready outfielder, was a player many thought would be included, which would then in turn lead to Andrew McCutchen being dealt. Instead, none of these names were part of the deal. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired two right handed pitchers in Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz. On top of those two, they received one of the top third base prospects in baseball in Colin Moran and a young outfield prospect Jason Martin.
Pittsburgh Pirates Twitter
Of course, Pittsburgh Pirates twitter was not happy with the return. Last year when the White Sox dealt away their two aces they received multiple top 50 prospects in baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates did not. Fans expected to see at least one big name like Whitley or Tucker coming back, if they did not see either of those names then it did not matter who else was coming in the deal, it would be considered a letdown. So in the fan bases eyes, the Bucs settled for a deal of quantity of quality, which is partially true. The Bucs could have gotten bigger named players if they wanted. Instead, they decided to get players that could help this team in 2018, 2019, and beyond. If they would have dealt for a bunch of Single-A prospects, people would have been upset also calling it “more of the same.”
The local media was not much kinder to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh Media members like Bob Pompeani and Joe Starkey were not pleased with the deal. Pompeani hit the nail on the head with his criticism. He called out ownership implying that the Bucs essentially felt implied to make a trade that they thought was the best. It is true that it came down to money. Frankly, Gerrit Cole was never going to re-sign in Pittsburgh. He would get a contract that would be upward of $17-20 million a year, if not more. The Pittsburgh Pirates ownership would never hand out that kind of money, even if it is for their best pitcher. Pomp is not criticizing the philosophy of why they dealt him, but more or less the same old song and dance that the Bucs always put their fans through.
Meanwhile, Starkey felt the return was abysmal, like many of the local media personalities. While I do not agree with him, I see his point. The Bucs missed in a way by not having that attractive name in the deal, the Whitley/Tucker/Fisher name. However, they still got Colin Moran who could become a very good third baseman for this team, and a couple of power arms that could play up in a pitcher’s ballpark, all for a pitcher who has seen his numbers regress the last two seasons. The Pittsburgh Pirates were not trading 2015 Gerrit Cole, but rather the idea that he can bounce back from his last two seasons simply because he has the stuff too.
The national media members have not been as bearish on the Pittsburgh Pirates return. Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said:
"“…Gut says return a little light. But…Pirates get starting 3b and rotation member for ’18. I love Musgrove, former top 100 guy. And Martin has some tools…”"
Mayo, who is an expert on minor league prospects, does not seem blown away by the Pittsburgh Pirates return in the trade. However, he also does not seem to hate it. He notes that Musgrove has great stuff and could figure it out in Pittsburgh like so many have before. Meanwhile, he thinks Moran’s bat will play at the big league level and he will play an adequate third base.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic also weighed in on the trade. While Rosenthal does not say much about the actual return, he does write about the reactions about the trade. While he notes the Yankees offered the best player of any potential deal in Clint Frazier, he says the all-around package the Bucs got from the Astros beat the Yankees offer. He also speaks about how many may have had too high of expectations for the return on Cole. In his article at The Athletic (subscription), he wrote:
"“But on the specific subject of Cole, who exactly did Pirates fans think the team was trading, Roger Clemens at his peak?”"
This just goes to show you that even some baseball insiders understood that the team was not going to simply pull in some of the games top prospects for a pitcher who has declined somewhat over the last two years. Gerrit Cole is not Chris Sale, but not many pitchers are. He was the Pittsburgh Pirates “ace” but is not one of the top pitchers 10 pitchers in the game. Is he a top 30 arm? Absolutely. Does he have the upside to be one of the best? Yes, we saw that in 2015. However, he has not exactly been a CY Young candidate recently either.
Was it the most attractive package in the world? No, the Pittsburgh Pirates did not make the headlines because of what they received in return. Still, they received a bundle of players, three of whom will make an impact on this team right out of Spring Training. For once, Neal Huntington acquired players that have MLB track records. He went and got controllable talent that all has upside.
At the time, many fans were upset when Huntington had a similar approach when trading Mark Melancon. Instead of getting top prospects, he went and got an upside reliever who had an ERA over 4.00, and he quickly turned into one of the premier relievers in baseball. Will any of these players turn into the quality of player Rivero is? It would incredible for that to happen, still, let’s not judge this trade until we see what these new players do in black and gold.