#3 – Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole
While the last two players on the list were acquired via two of Huntington’s best trades, the next guy on the list was lost in what was undoubtedly one of his two worst trades. That player is starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.
The former #1 overall pick never reached his full potential in Pittsburgh, largely due to reasons that were not his fault, but he was still an excellent pitcher for the Pirates. Starting with his MLB debut against the Giants in June of 2013, a game that is among the best Pirate moments of the decade, he took the mound with an attitude and an intimidation factor. Two things that could be contributed at least somewhat to the influence of Burnett on the pitching staff.
Now the owner of the richest pitching contract in baseball history, Cole started 127 games in 5 seasons as a Pirate. He posted a 3.50 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and a 15.4 fWAR. His 15.4 fWAR was good for 10th best among NL starting pitchers during this 5 year stretch. Cole was NL All-Star in 2015, the same year in which he finished in the top-5 in NL Cy Young Award voting.
In the 2013 postseason he pitched the Pirates to victory in Game 2 of the NLDS, and then was tabbed the starter for the decisive Game 5 against the Cardinals. Cole allowed just 2 runs in 5 innings of work, and 2 runs that never should have scored had balls and strikes been properly called on Jon Jay in the 2nd inning, and gave the Bucs a chance to advance to the NLCS. Unfortunately, many fans will remember him for struggling in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game loss against the Cubs.
Since leaving Pittsburgh Cole has become a bonafide ace. He is now one of the best, if not the best starting pitcher in all of baseball. However, he is still one of the best Pirates of the 2010s.