The rich get richer. Fresh off of winning the 2017 World Series, the Houston Astros weren’t content with just bringing back the same team in 2018. The Stros have traded for a top of the line starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. In return for the Pirates starter, Pittsburgh will receive a four-player mix of Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Michael Felix, and Jason Martin. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports was the first to report the news.
Cole, 27, adds to an already dominant starting rotation in Houston that also features Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers Jr, and Collin McHugh. After winning 101 games in 2017, Houston figures to be even more dominant adding a starter in the caliber of Cole. Don’t forget, Verlander was only with the Astros for a little more than a month after coming over in the trade with the Tigers in August.
For Houston, the trade also gives the team more options after the 2018 season. Cole comes with two more years of control, eligible for free agency following the 2019 season. Cole will earn a reasonable $6.75 million during his second stint through the arbitration process. Fellow teammates Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton can leave via free agency following the 2018 season. Keuchel’s return seems bleak considering he is a client of Scott Boras.
Cole, who is also a Boras client, likely needed a fresh start as the Pirates are set to undergo a rebuild. Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen could be the next Buccos on the block. In terms of the players Pittsburgh received in return, it appears the Pirates struck for quantity over quality. Joe Musgrove had his struggles as a starter but improved drastically once Houston shipped him to the bullpen. His stat line of a 1.44 ERA and a 1.44 BB/9 across 31 1/3 innings could make him a bullpen piece moving forward. The same could be said of Michael Felix who is a high-risk high reward part of the trade. Felix, 24, amassed an ERA of 4.94 a year ago frankly due to his low groundball rate being vulnerable to the long ball (16.5 percent). Moran, 25, was part of the Jared Cossart trade but had no place in Houston with stud Alex Bregman holding the hot corner. Martin appears to be nothing more than a throw-in.
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
Sure, Cole had a down year in 2017, but there are reasons to believe he will return to his 2015 form. The number one overall pick in 2011 won 18 games in 2015 finishing second in the Cy Young ballot. The 2017 season wasn’t nearly as kind but the analytical department in Houston is one of the best in baseball. Just ask Justin Verlander who hasn’t lost a start since joining the Astros. One of those tweaks will likely feature more of the use of his slider. Cole recorded a 17 percent swing and miss rate from his slider a year ago along with a .228 batting average against. For a pitcher that can hit 100 MPH, Houston likely got a gem for very little.
The Yankees were also in the mix for Cole but were unwilling to trade Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, and Miguel Andujar according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. New York was also only willing to trade either Clint Frazier or Chance Adams, not both. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Brian Cashman has been extremely frugal and stingy in recent trades. However, he may regret not upping the ante for Cole considering Houston was the team that knocked out the Yankees in the ALCS in 2017.