The Pittsburgh Pirates are severely struggling and it is looking more and more likely that they’ll be sellers in July. Over the last couple weeks trade speculation has centered around starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. One columnist in New York proposed that surprise contenders New York Yankees go after Gerrit. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Houston Astros were interested in Gerrit Cole and Tony Watson. Which is a silly thing to say because of course teams are interested in Cole. It’s like how everybody wants a million dollars, they can be interested in having it but that doesn’t mean they can get it.
Gerrit Cole would bolster any rotation in the MLB. He finished fifth in Cy Young voting two years ago, had an injury filled campaign last year, but is now healthy and tearing it up. Just two nights ago he silenced the smashing Nationals lineup to three hits and one single run. On the season he has a 2.84 ERA, 4.17 strikeouts per walk, 1.018 WHIP, and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s only in his first season of arbitration and is owed 3.75 million dollars.
He doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season, which is all but guaranteed to enter with Scott Boras as his agent. When he’s performing his worst (providing he’s not injured) he’s a decent mid-rotation arm. When he’s at his best he is an ace in every sense of the word. He’s an arm worth having especially when he’s as cheap as he is. An pitcher of this caliber is worth any team’s interest.
The trade rumors make sense…in world where a player could be rented away for a season. Team “A” needs a starting pitcher, the Pirates aren’t competitive and don’t need a top flight arm the one season so they trade him away. However, that is not the MLB works and it is why all these rumors are basically worthless. The Pirates may be in the crapper at the moment but trading away the next two and a half years of Cole would be insanely stupid. The Pirates wouldn’t just be selling Cole they’d be selling away their immediate future.
The roster isn’t actually bad, although the record doesn’t show that. That’s what happens when a team loses its top two offensive pieces to bad personal decisions and a developing ace to cancer. Starling Marte suspension will be over after the All star break and he would have to be extremely stupid to ever get suspended again. Jameson Taillon has testicular cancer but the odds are in his favor and he’s a professional at coming back from injuries. The only part of the team that won’t be here next year is Jung Ho Kang. Kang lost his appeal hearing yesterday and may never play in the MLB again.
The Pirates pitching staff has been great this year but the biggest problem has been the offense. The same offense that is missing literally it’s two biggest producers. If just one of those two guys made better decisions the Pirates are probably sitting a lot closer to .500 and these trade ideas would be nonexistent. Which brings us to this: Why would the Pirates trade away their arguably best pitcher?
If the Pirates trade Cole they aren’t just punting on the 2017 season, they are forcing a mini-rebuild in 2018 and 2019. It doesn’t make any sense. The Pirates would lose important years out of Gregory Polanco, Marte, Ivan Nova, and Josh Harrison. Most importantly a trade would get the Pirates some good, or even great, prospects but they lose an ace. The small market Pirates can only afford to replace starters through prospects. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the payroll to sign a top level starter or even a mid level starter. Free agent pitchers keep becoming more and more expensive and increasingly out of reach.
These trade ideas move a true top of the rotation pitcher for prospects that haven’t been proven in any way. If the Pirates were the Atlanta Braves a trade would make sense but they aren’t. The team is currently built to compete in the immediate future not in five years. If the Buccos moved Cole fans should rightly call out the team for moving Cole for purely monetary reasons. It would be similiar to when the Pirates traded top ten prospects AND Francisco Liriano to the Toronot Blue Jays. If that happens prepare to hear a lot of deserved complaining about ownership.