The Pittsburgh Pirates have not yet traded Gerrit Cole. Now what?

It looked like the Gerrit Cole trade saga came to a close Wednesday at 12:14 p.m. when MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweeted that the Astros acquired the Pirates’ ace. That report was debunked at 1:04 p.m. by Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan, who reported it was a “false rumor.”

Here are some thoughts I have as we sort through the wreckage of the non-trade.

So is this going to happen?

I can say with certainty that a Cole trade is definitely, maybe, possibly going to happen. Or it won’t. I don’t know. Nobody does. Anyone who says they know for sure is lying.

I will say there’s a lot more smoke with a possible Cole trade this year than there was last year with Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen rumors focused almost exclusively on the Nationals and were all but dead after the Winter Meetings. It’s been almost a month since the Meetings and Cole remains one of the most in-demand starters. The Astros, Yankees, Cubs and a mystery team are still in the mix.

Huntington was adamant last year that he was not shopping McCutchen, but rather just listening to offers. This year, it appears he is shopping Cole. The two already had a very public butting of the heads in 2016 when Cole was scheduled to take a pay decrease after an All-Star campaign. A GM doesn’t need to be liked by his team, but if a trade doesn’t happen, it may put another hitch in their relationship.

Cole remains the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most valuable trade chip and is going to leave after the 2019 season at the latest. There are going to be more trade rumors until Huntington makes a public announcement that he’s staying put or leaving.

Arbitration Filings Due

While Morosi has egg on his face right now, he did raise a good point: arbitration salaries are due Friday. If Cole is traded after Friday, his new team will go into arbitration with the figures the Pirates and Cole exchanged with one another, not their own.

Ironically, this may impact the Yankees the most. New York is determined to stay under the luxury-tax figure, and a fluctuating million dollars or so could sway their decision. If they were to get Cole with the Pirates’ figures, they may be forced to make a strong case against Cole during the arbitration filing to save as much money as possible. That could also sour Cole on his new club once he hits free agency.

This is all hypothetical, however. Is this going to have a major impact on Cole’s market? Probably not. MLBTR and our friends at The Point of Pittsburgh project Cole to make $7.5 million in 2018. Trade or no trade, his salary will not deviate far from that figure.

The Return

While there has been demand for Cole, it’s still unknown how other teams are valuing him. Huntington isn’t going to trade him just to get rid of him. He wants an impressive package back, so he’s marketing Cole as an ace. It seems like other teams aren’t buying it, with the Astros reportedly unwilling to part with top prospect RHP Forrest Whitley, according to sources connected with The Athletic, Yahoo! Sports and the Post-Gazette.

We reported at Pirates Breakdown that a package consisting of some combination of OF Clint Frazier, 3B Miguel Andujar and RHP Chance Adams seemed to be an attainable return for Cole, but the Pirates were also interested in Gleyber Torres. Once Torres’ name came up, talks cooled down. It seems as though the Pirates may not be able to get an elite prospect in return for their maybe-ace.

So it seems we’ve reached an impasse. Unless the Pittsburgh Pirates are willing to take a package of good prospects instead of aiming for a blue-chipper or a team is willing to make a leap of faith, it seems like Huntington won’t get what he wants for his ace. My money is we’ll see Cole pitching for the Pirates Opening Day in Detroit.

Just expect more rumors like this until then.

Alex Stumpf

Alex is a credentialed Pirates beat reporter with The Pittsburgh Sports Report. If you want to keep up to date on the team or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.