As the offseason moves at a snail’s pace for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and pretty much every other team in the league, there could possibly be a new player in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes.
As painful as it would be to see Cole call Wrigley Field his home for the next couple of seasons, according to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, the Chicago Cubs have had conversations about acquiring the 27-year old right hander.
That report, on the heels of ESPN’s Buster Olney reporting that the Pirates have been active and are making progress on deals could light a fire on this bitter cold hot stove season.
Baseball’s winter freeze has continued, but the Pirates are said by other teams to be active and making progress. As has been reported all winter, they’ve been discussing possible deals involving Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole and Josh Harrison.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 3, 2018
The question though is could the Pirates really deal Cole to their division rival?
Why would the Cubs want Cole?
He makes sense for a team wanting to win. For all of the heat he gets from Pirates fans, Cole still owns a 3.50 ERA in 127 career starts.
Cole also could bring a bit of stability to the Cubs rotation. He was just one of 15 big league starters to throw at least 200 innings last year. He also was one of 12 MLB starters to make at least 33 starts. After an injury-plagued 2016 season, the fact that Cole looked healthy in 2017 is a bonus for potential suitors.
Other than the 31 homers allowed, which could be a big problem in Wrigley Field, Cole had a decent 2017.
The fastball velocity was there, averaging 95.9 mph on the season, the third highest mark in the majors. That also led to a nice strikeout season a Cole fanned 196 batters, nearly missing the 200 K mark for the second time.
While Cole gave up a lot of hits, the league only hit .252 off him, a big drop from the .282 in 2016. His WHIP also dropped from 1.44 to 1.25 this season so those are positive trends. As was the BABIP which dropped from .345 in 2016 to .298 this year.
Does trading Cole within the division make sense?
There’s no problem with it at all as long as they get value in return.
While the Pirates would have to face Cole multiple times if he were traded inside the division, a trade of Cole would signify a small rebuild anyways, so I don’t see the issue with it.
There’s no chance Cole re-signs with the Bucs after the 2019 season so why not maximize the return, regardless of the destination.
Would the Cubs be a good trade partner?
If you’ve paid attention to the Cubs lately, that answer is an easy yes as Theo Epstein has done a fantastic job in loading up the Chicago farm system.
We’ve seen many of their young studs come up to the majors and make huge impacts already. That listed includes, but isn’t limited to: Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Ian Happ.
However it’s doubtful any of those guys would be available in a deal for Cole so it would likely be centered on prospects.
The Cubs system is loaded with pitching at the top as they have drafted and signed a ton of pitching the last few years, which in turn made the organizations biggest weakness into maybe their top strength.
One thing the Cubs don’t have a lot of is top position player prospects, after dealing the likes of: Eloy Jimenez, shortstops Isaac Paredes and Gleyber Torres and third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the past year and a half.
While a lot of the Cubs’ pitching prospects are attractive, most aren’t anywhere close to the big leagues, so if a deal with the Cubs were to happen, it would likely signify a complete rebuild and not the “small retooling effort” Neal Huntington has referred to.
For what it is worth, an industry source told PBD that a potential Cubs-Pirates deal would see Pirates asking for two out of Cubs top five prospects. We’ve heard the Bucs would likely be looking at RHPs Jose Albertos (Cubs’ #2), Alex Lange (#4) and C/1B Prospect Victor Caratini (#6).
Caratini is a guy I do like a lot and received 59 at bats with the Cubs last season. Albertos and Lange won’t likely see the majors until 2019 and 2020 respectively, which may be a year or two longer if acquired by the Pirates.
There is a good bit of talent to be acquired by the Pirates if they were to send Cole to the Cubs.
But by doing so they would have to be honest with themselves and commit to rebuilding. A Cole to Chicago deal should trigger a full-blown fire sale in which Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and others are dealt.
I still like what the New York Yankees could offer better, but the Cubs could be an intriguing trade partner if it comes to that.