TODAY: Chance Adams and Miguel Andujar could be part of a hypothetical Yankees/Pirates trade for Cole, Kristie Ackert and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News report. If those two prospects and Frazier are all included, that could mean the Pirates will also include Josh Harrison in the deal. While the Yankees have also talked to the Diamondbacks about Patrick Corbin and the Tigers about Michael Fulmer, it seems as if Cole is New York’s preferred target of the three pitchers; Corbin is under control for just the 2018 season while Detroit is putting an enormous asking price on Fulmer’s services.
SATURDAY: A trade of Gerrit Cole doesn’t appear to be imminent at this point, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter). Though it seemed at one point that talks between the Yankees and Pirates were picking up momentum, Crasnick says that multiple clubs have engaged with the Pirates since the winter meetings; the prospect of a Cole trade isn’t “Yankees or bust”.
The Yankees don’t appear to have tunnel vision on a Cole deal, either. Though the Bronx Bombers are trying to net Pittsburgh’s prized right-hander with proposals centered around Clint Frazier, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Bombers offered similar packages to the Rays and Tigers for Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer, respectively. From my perspective, it seems as though the Yankees may not be interested in Cole specifically, but rather could have a broader objective to move the 23-year-old Frazier in exchange for pitching help. Following the club’s acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, it appears as though Frazier is destined to be a high-ceiling depth piece for the Yankees, whose outfield picture features Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Stanton, with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury also on the roster.
In a brilliant piece for the New York Post, Joel Sherman points out that the Yankees can afford to be patient, as they did with Stanton this winter and Sonny Gray this summer. They’re not desperate for pitching right now, as their rotation is set to feature Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. While each of those pitchers carries a question mark or two (or in Sherman’s words, “red flag possibilities”), the ballclub wouldn’t be chastised if it were to have these five in the rotation come Opening Day. Furthermore, top prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield could reach the majors before long, with Adams being the more likely of the two to contribute in 2018.
From the Pirates’ side, they don’t necessarily need another outfielder. However, it stands to reason that a trade of Cole could set off a domino effect that prompts Pittsburgh to sell off other pieces. As Brink states in a separate article (one that deals with the “what if” scenario of a Cole trade), trading the right-hander could act as “the first tug on the rope that raises the white flag on 2018.” In that case, they’d be highly likely to shop Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, and his hypothetical trade would mean that Frazier could suddenly become a useful piece.
It’s unclear how serious the Pirates’ talks are with other potential suitors at this time, or even whether those clubs have made formal offers. Crasnick notes in his above tweet that a deal probably won’t come together before Christmas, but adds that trade talks could pick up again between then and New Year’s. It stands to reason that Pittsburgh could be patient for months, or even wait until the 2018 trade deadline to trade Cole (if they opt to move him at all). It will of course be far more evident how the Pirates’ playoff chances compare with those of the other NL Central clubs. However, there are plenty of reasons to move him now as well, including the high probability that clubs would be willing to pay more to have Cole for a full season, and the risk that the Yankees might acquire a different starter.