The 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros have reportedly struck gold. On Saturday, the American League West juggernaut traded for Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole. The swap occurred not too long after the Chicago Cubs were the latest team to express interest in the righty, according to Tim Daniels of Bleacher Report.
The New York Yankees were another team in the mix for a while. The AL East ball club already proved this offseason that they are not afraid to go after big names on account of trading for slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Nevertheless, it is now clear that they were never willing to go all-in for the hard-throwing pitcher. Due to this, Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports thinks that the Bronx Bombers are the “biggest losers” of the transaction.
In the deal, the Pirates accrued four assets in return, headlined by right-handed arm Joe Musgrove and infielder Colin Moran.
As for the Astros, the acquisition of Cole strengthens what was already a stacked starting rotation. The rotation was previously led by a bona fide two-headed monster consisting of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.
While the scales already heavily tipped toward the Astros, such a bold decision further solidifies their candidacy as favorites to return to the fall classic.
OFFICIAL: The #Astros have acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Welcome to Houston, Gerrit! pic.twitter.com/emJCoNScVU
— Houston Astros (@astros) January 14, 2018
It is crucial to point out that the right-handed Cole had an off year in 2017 by his lofty standards. His 4.26 ERA and 55 walks both happened to be career worsts. In spite of that, the hurler struck out 196 batters, which is only a half dozen away from his career best mark. The former Pirate logged 203 innings as well, a tally that is just five below what he accomplished as an All-Star in 2015.
Although trading top tier players is never desirable, Pirates GM Neal Huntington understands that baseball is a business. Eric Stephen of SB Nation recently transcribed Huntington’s thoughts relative to the Pirates-Astros move. Evidently, dealing Gerrit was not an easy decision.
“Trading Gerrit Cole was not an easy decision. We are very appreciative for what Gerrit has done for our team and organization, especially his important role on the 2013-15 playoff teams. Acquiring these four quality young players, three of whom we project to be an important part of our 2018 team, with many years of potential contribution, is an important step for us as we work toward bringing playoff baseball back to our fans.”
The Astros are likely the favorites at this point to make it back to the World Series with Cole in tow. As disgruntled as they may be presently, the Yankees project to be among their biggest competitors in 2018.
How competitive the Yanks and other teams will be against them is another story. MLB.com’s Richard Justice asserts that the Astros’ move is by no means linked with the norm, provided how good they were prior to obtaining Cole’s services. Simply put, the move is one that bestows them with greater depth and a potential long-term solution.
Cole is set to earn $6.75 million this season. Not too long ago, he and his former team reached a pact to avoid arbitration.
SI.com writer Jon Tayler claims that if the former UCLA product can have a respectable, bounce back campaign, the MLB will need to be on watch. Let alone how good their starting rotation could be, there is no way of knowing how well the team itself could fare.
The Astros won 101 games in 2017, second to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is not a stretch to say that getting Gerrit Cole could subsequently elevate what is already a high number.
During his five-year stay with Pittsburgh, Gerrit Cole posted a 3.50 ERA in 127 starts. In that span, the flamethrower amassed 734 punch outs with a WHIP of 1.217. The year 2015 is widely considered his best, as he went 19-8, supplemented by an impressive 2.60 ERA.