Gerrit Cole Finally Lands with Astros

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

A few days ago, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that a deal between the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates, with Gerrit Cole as the centerpiece, was imminent. However, soon after, conflicting reports emerged, and a trade never materialized. Yesterday, Cole and the Pirates reached an agreement to avoid arbitration; apparently, that’s what the Astros were waiting on.

As Saturday afternoon wore on, while most people were engrossed with the NLF Playoffs, the Astros and Pirates finally agreed on a swap. In exchange for Cole, Pittsburgh will receive Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Jason Martin, and Michael Feliz.

Gerrit Cole Finally Lands with Astros

As Last Word on Baseball writer Jordan Dickow wrote in his initial report, Cole, 27, played 33 games for the Pirates last season. He made a career-high 33 starts, logging a 4.26 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and a 101 ERA+. The long ball hurt Cole in 2017, as he managed a 1.4 HR/9 over a 8.8 H/9. Cole allowed 31 home runs in total, which is a career high for the 27-year-old. However, Cole also racked up nearly 200 strikeouts, finishing with 196 in 203 innings. This is Cole’s second 200-inning season; his first came in 2015, when he recorded 208 innings and became an All-Star, as well. Since joining the Pirates in 2013, Cole has established himself as the ace of their rotation.

Cole has spent four seasons in the majors, all with the Pirates. He has a career 59-42 record, with a 3.50 ERA. Cole has notched 734 strikeouts in 782.1 innings.

The New York Yankees drafted Cole as their 28th pick in the 2008 June Amateur draft after Cole came out of Orange Lutheran High School. He would later go first overall of the 2011 Amateur draft to the Pirates, coming out of the University of California Los Angeles. Cole made his debut for Pittsburgh in 2013 against the San Francisco Giants. In Cole’s debut, he went 6.1 innings, allowed seven hits and two walks, and only surrendered two earned runs in a winning effort.

Impact for Houston

This should give the defending World Champions a better shot at defending their title. Pitching wins in the playoff, and Houston’s rotation now features Lance McCullers Jr., Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Cole. There’s a strong argument to be made for that being the best rotation in the American League.

Cole will have to get his walks and home runs down, and injuries could strike at any time, but the Astros should be the preseason favorites to get back to the World Series. It’s also important to note that Houston didn’t give up any of their top prospects in this deal. This could be a steal for the Astros.

Return for Pittsburgh

Musgrove, 25, has spent just two years at the major league level, and has been a starter and a reliever. He owns a career 4.52 ERA. In 2017, he finished with an ugly 4.77 ERA, but did record 98 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. While he can fill any role on the Pirates pitching staff, he seems best suited to a relief role. Opponents hit .306 off him as a starter, but just .196 when he came out of the bullpen. His ERA across August and September, when he served exclusively as a reliever, was stellar. He’s got effective stuff; perhaps a change of scenery will help him put it all together.

Infielder Colin Moran, who can play third, first, and short, hasn’t spent a significant amount of time in the Majors. He has just 37 plate appearances in his career. However, every team welcomes versatility, and Moran has talent as well. In 2017, he spit time between Single-A, Triple-A and the Majors. In the minor leagues, he hit a combined .301, and slugged 18 home runs. In his limited time with Houston, he hit .364 and added another homer. He’s no sure thing, but he’s young and could at least be a solid bench presence for Pittsburgh.

Feliz, 24, owns a 5.13 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 121 big league innings. He can miss bats, but struggles with control. The righty is still young and could figure things out, but for now is not a pitcher Pirates fans will like to see in tight games.

At just 22 years old, Martin is the youngest player involved in the deal. He made it as high as Double-A in 2017, and has some offensive ability. His batting average has gone up in each of his pro seasons, and he finished last season batting .278. He added 18 home runs and 16 steals, demonstrating his potential to be a 20/20 guy down the road. He needs to significantly cut down on his strikeouts, but his youth gives him plenty of time to accomplish that.

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