Is now the time to trade Gerrit Cole?

There has been talk as of late stating that the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider trading their number one starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole.  Cole has two years left of team control before heading to free agency.  He is a Scott Boras client.  The likelihood that he signs longterm with the Pirates is slim to none.  Is it time to part ways?

In his four and a half seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole has had his ups and downs.

In total, he has logged 782.1 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.50.  He has 734 strikeouts to 203 walks.  In 2015, Cole was an All Star and finished fourth in the National League in Cy Young voting.  Cole has easily been the Pirates’ best starting pitcher this millennium.

That said, Cole has regressed over the past two seasons.  In 2016, the hard throwing right hander struggled with injuries.  It’s hard to blame him for that.  This past season, Cole was able to pile up over 200 innings pitched but had an incredibly difficult time with the home run ball, giving up 31.  Over the past two seasons, Cole has had an ERA+ of 103.  He’s been a slightly about average starting pitcher.

Why he should be traded

Value.  Pittsburgh Pirates fans are all too familiar with this word.

The Pirates do not shop at Whole Foods for their groceries.  They shop at Aldi.  To optimize maximum value, the Pirates should trade Gerrit Cole this offseason.

At age 27, Cole should be entering his prime over the next few years.  In my estimations, his value is still high.  Cole is a legitimate number two starter, even with his struggles in 2017.  For as high as his value currently is, it has nowhere to go but down.  Two years of cheap arbitration pay to a pitcher like Cole could be harvest quite a package in return, though clock is ticking.

If the Pirates trade Cole now, they would still have a fairly nice starting rotation in 2018.  It would look something like this:

  1. Jameson Tallion
  2. Ivan Nova
  3. Chad Kuhl
  4. Trevor Williams
  5. Tyler Glasnow/Steven Brault/Nick Kingham

It would be a younger unit with a pretty high ceiling.  Nova would help bear the load.  This unit could be competitive in 2018.  They could also struggle via lack of experience.

The return Cole would fetch would have to be substantial.  If they trade him, a return including a young, emerging, controllable bat would be great.  Someone like Jonathon Schoop comes to mind.  Schoop, like Cole, has two years left of control.  The Orioles desperately need starting pitching.  The Pirates need a thumper in the middle of their order.  This is just me spit-balling, but a return like that would be fair on both ends.

If the Pirates choose to trade Cole for prospects, the return would have to include at least one A-type prospect with a few B’s.  Anything less would not be worth it.

Why he should not be traded

With Cole involved, the Pirates have the makings of a potentially great starting rotation IF he bounces back AND the young guns continue to progress.  Taillon goes from being the ace to the number two.  Nova goes from the number two to a middle of the rotation innings eater.  Kuhl and Williams would continue to anchor the end of the rotation.  Glasnow gets more time if he needs it.  Brault and Kingham provide depth.

If Jung-Ho Kang is able to return to the Pirates next season, I would not trade Cole.  With Kang at third base, the offense would be set for 2018.  The team would basically be set.  Stay the course and hope for the best.

The fact of the matter is that the Pittsburgh Pirates were hit with everything short of a tornado in 2017.  Kang was gone.  Marte was gone for half of the season.  Polanco was nagged by countless hamstring injuries.  The front office had no go answer for any of those vacancies.  Taillon got sick for a while.  Cole struggled as the leader of the staff.  Much more went wrong than it did go right.

It would be unrealistic to expect the same amount of bad luck to continue for a second straight season.  Assuming that Marte and Kang return and Polanco can stay healthy (yeah, I know), the Pirates could have a potent offense in 2018.  Bell will get better.  The outfield can’t get any worse than it was in 2017 (sans McCutchen).  Kang would produce far more than David Freese did in 2017.  A bench of Freese, Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez, Elias Diaz, and either Jose Osuna or Max Moroff would not be too shabby either.

The ultimatum

If the Pirates’ front office truly believes that the team can contend in 2018, they should not trade Gerrit Cole or Andrew McCutchen unless they feel that equal major league ready value is exchanged in return.  The Pirates could remain competitive.  They could add cheap complimentary pieces when needed.  They could bolster the bullpen this offseason.  There’s always the option to add at the trade deadline.

On the other hand, if the front office does not believe there is a realistic shot at winning in 2018, trade and start over.  Doing otherwise would be foolish.

Nathan Hursh

Nathan is a graduate of Duquesne University with a degree in journalism. He has been a lifelong Pirates fans and loves watching baseball. Along with baseball, Nathan also has a passion for watching football and basketball. When he is not sitting on his couch indulging in sports, Nathan likes to be active outside. Along with Twitter, he can also be found on Instagram at nathan_hursh.

  • bmcferren

    Cole for Urias or bust

  • redrage97

    You don’t trade him this off season unless you are getting very top flight players who can help this summer. A healthy team with figuring out whats going on at third and picking up some free agent pen help makes the team play off contenders.

    One of if not more of the Kuhl, Williams, Glasnow, Brault and Kingham will not cut it. Having Cole in there stabilizes it. IF by chance most of them do well. One of the pitchers can easilly be traded at the break. Given that Cole and Nova both have reasonable cost and control beyond 2018 one of them is the logical choice.

    A healthy Cole not giving up the long ball should be a cy young candidate (even if it is on the low end).

    If they’ve already given up on 18.. ok trade Cole, Nova, Cutch, Freese, Mercer and who ever else will return you a player that will be called up by the end of the season to start the ’19 season

    But the team has a good base (if healthy) they just got a few holes to fill to get back to the playoffs.

    • piratemike

      “But the team has a good base(if healthy)”
      Look at this team as it really is
      They have a bad outfield (Marte is half the player he was thought to be – Cutch is toast – Polanco is garbage.) The infield is a mish mash of bench players except 1b. Catchers are avg. at best. BP needs a lot of help and the SP is young and needs a lot of help from the offense to stay afloat but that help is not there.

      • redrage97

        well no….

        Marte is a gold glove outfielder and can hit pretty well but only played 85 games last season and is continuing to get ABs this winter to get back in mlb shape hopefully. As Poorly as he did last season in limited action still had a positive WAR.

        Cutch still above average bat over the season and rebounded on defense (though still not great) he might not be a superstar any more but still fair option

        Polanco is also an above average fielder that just happens to make a horrible mistake from time to time. his real problem is he can’t stay healthy. hes a .270 30HR guy, he just needs to play.

        Harrison is a 2nd/3rd basemen we know about him well enough.

        Mercer should probably be on his way out sometime this season but fair option as a place holder

        third is up in the air

        I think we can agree, bell is probably going to be something special and hopefully he continues to improve his defense.

        Cervelli when healthy is pretty decent… he just hasent been.. I’d like to sign Lucroy and trade cervelli myself (hahaha yeah right)

        THAT is a good base.

        Pitching they have Cole and Taillion yeah they didn’t do well last season but everyone knows they’re better than that, also getting Marte, Polanco and Cervelli back healthy should improve that if they keep the HRs down.

        Nova, Kuhl and Williams are at worst 4/5 bottom rotation guys.

        Thats a solid base.

        Bull pen, they have one of the better closers in the game in Rivero, Kontos probably a fair 7th inning guy maybe even setup.. they need to fill the holes there but that ‘should’ be cheap to fix. hopefully they don’t bonehead it again.

        They only have one whole they NEED to plug, the pen one or two signings of quality… done. Another hole they SHOULD fill at third and a would be nice to fill at short a signing like Nunez covers both.

        i would argue Catcher is a concern as well, like you do. Most don’t see it that way. The only real upgrade there would be Lucroy as i mentioned and the team just wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

        So really.. If they’re healthy (good luck with that one lol) then yes it is a solid base.

        • piratemike

          Looks to me that you made my point.
          Marte has failed to live up to the potential that was hoped for and you somehow left out his stupid reason for missing half the season.

          • redrage97

            That was not the point i made.. not even close no idea how you got that or any way you can think that. Marte had a down 85 Games and still was well better than league average except for his power numbers in 2017. and really it wasn’t even much of a down 85 games.. it was more like a down 15 games to start the season. The rest of the season was close to his career (again except his power numbers)

            He is a two time gold glove winner, an All-Star and has a career slash of .288/.344/.439 with 181 SB’s and has been a 3-5 WAR player….

            You can say that about Polanco if you want I’d probably jump on board. but not Marte

          • piratemike

            How much of Marte’s career is due to PED’s ?
            I was led to believe because of all the hype from Pirate writers and fans that Marte was going to put up superstar numbers, well between his cheating and lackadaisical play many times he has really got me down on him.

          • redrage97

            i can get the steroid thing. What if what Marte said was true? that it was a one off thing? Just don’t know. Based on Marte’s numbers this past year and assuming he was clean… I don’t think his numbers would be much different.

            and yeah i can get the lack of hussle this year. the team pretty much gave up.. wasn’t just him who fell victim to that… gets to me too.

          • redrage97

            just saw your edit, don’t think you read the post.

            You are butt hurt cause the steroid thing. I can get that… so we’ll move on.

            Cutch’s fielding yeah its not good, its barely good enough, but he hits. As long as it doesn’t get worse again.

            You know as much as we complain about Polanco’s injury time it hasn’t been alot until 2017, the bad part is when he gets injured it is usually when he is starting to heat up. I agree, he is either going to break out in a huge way or end up retiring early due do injury.

            Like I said, Third base is up in the air, Freese is a fine stand in, but not an every day player. Mercer is good enough to fill in until (hopefully) our prospects step up. Harrison is an everyday player, not a bench player, get used to it.

            Cervelli when healthy is pretty great, he just hasn’t been most of his career.

            AGAIN like i said, if they’re HEALTHY (I capped that cause i think it was missed a few times) they have a solid base only needing to figure out third base and the bull pen and to a lesser extent short.

            You don’t need a team of Stars to do well.

  • JPksu

    I don’t think I would trade Cole for straight prospects. I like the idea of trading him for some power – preferably an infielder. This team needs help offensively and trading Cole gives them an opportunity for an immediate upgrade.

  • Keith

    Two small things. Diaz has to emerge as the catcher of the future this year. Much as I likr Cervelli personally, Diaz appears to have a superior bat and arm. Polanco pulls hamstrings when he charges ground balls to the outfield. His legs are too long. He needs to play these more conservatively even if it means an occasional base. It is better than being without him for extended periods.

  • Todd Tomasic

    They are not doing anything of note until June or July when they are buried in 4th or 5th in the division. NH thinks
    that they can contend-he is the only one who does.