10:19am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (via Twitter) that the Yankees would also likely balk at including either of Justus Sheffield or Estevan Florial in a package for Cole. Sherman suspects that any package would be structured around Clint Frazier and Chance Adams.
10:07am: Feinsand tweets that there’s been no change since this morning, reporting that the two sides aren’t close to a deal. Like Heyman and Bowden (as well as the YES Network’s Jack Curry), Feinsand adds that the Yankees have no plans to trade Torres.
9:45am: Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM now tweets that the Pirates and Yankees are close to a deal that would send Cole to New York. Torres is not a part of those talks, according to Bowden.
Dec. 22, 8:17am: Both Feinsand and Heyman throw some cold water on the talks with the Yankees, as Feinsand now hears that the advancement in talks last night may have been “overstated.” Heyman notes that there’s no positive momentum in talks between the two sides at this time.
Dec. 21, 9:49pm: Passan adds more context in a full column, reporting that the Yankees are “hopeful” that they can entice the Pirates to agree to a deal that does not include Torres, who is the leading candidate to succeed Starlin Castro as the everyday second baseman in the Bronx. Passan suggests that Cole could very well be traded before Christmas and adds that the Pirates may also market McCutchen as they prepare for a rebuilding effort.
8:59pm: MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that talks between the Yankees and Pirates are “getting hot,” though he notes that it remains unclear if a deal is on the verge of completion.
8:24pm: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that the primary sticking point in talks has been that the Yankees want to headline a package for Cole with Frazier, while the Pirates want Torres to be the headliner.
8:08pm: The Pirates and Yankees are again discussing a trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole to New York, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). While there’s been plenty of trade talk surrounding Cole this winter, Passan now reports that the Pirates are “motivated” to get a deal done and there’s a “very strong”likelihood that he’ll be traded.
The Yankees, according to Passan, are the likeliest landing spot for Cole, with one source telling him that it’s a matter of “when” a trade will ultimately be agreed upon rather than a matter of “if.”
Talks between the Bucs and Yanks have been ongoing, to some extent, since the Winter Meetings at the least, though The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that those negotiations had “cooled” to some extent. The Pirates at one point were said to have been pushing for Gleyber Torres to be included in the deal, though it’d be tough for the Yankees to part with the touted young infielder. Other names that have been mentioned in rumors include young outfielder Clint Frazier and right-hander Chance Adams, though the permutations of the current talks remain unreported.
Cole, 27, is controlled for another two years and comes with a projected arbitration salary of $7.5MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. He’d give the Yankees another high-octane arm to add to the top end of a rotation that also includes Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery at present. Certainly, that strong group and the presence of Adams and Justus Sheffield in the upper minors presents the Yankees with an enviable stock of starters, but Cole, a former No. 1 overall pick, also comes with a Cy Young caliber season on his resume and stands out as a nice rebound candidate on the heels of a down season (by his standards).
Cole was one of just 15 pitchers to top 200 innings in 2017, and in his 203 frames he averaged 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a 45.8 percent ground-ball rate and a fastball that averaged 96 mph. A huge spike in Cole’s HR/9 rate (from 0.54 in 2016 to 1.37 in 2017) led to a bloated 4.26 ERA, but he also maintained an ability to miss bats, limit walks and keep the ball on the ground. All of those trends point to the possibility of a return to form, though moving to the AL East (and, specifically, Yankee Stadium) isn’t necessarily a great recipe to cut back on one’s home run rate.
If Cole is ultimately traded, the question then becomes just how far the Pirates will go in terms of selling off veteran assets. Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen have both been oft-mentioned trade candidates this winter — speculatively speaking, Harrison could hold appeal to the Yankees — with each becoming increasingly expensive and moving closer to free agency. McCutchen will hit the open market next offseason, while Harrison is controlled through 2020 by virtue of a pair of club options but is now commanding $10MM+ per season.