SATURDAY: In return for Cole, the Pirates have been pushing for infielder Gleyber Torres (MLB.com’s second-ranked prospect), per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). Heyman doubts the Yankees would give up Torres, though, and he notes that it’s more likely a deal would include Frazier and at least one other piece. The two teams are continuing to negotiate.
THURSDAY: The Pirates and Yankees are discussing a trade that would send right-hander Gerrit Cole to the Bronx Bombers in exchange for a trade package that includes outfielder Clint Frazier, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The Bucs are also reportedly looking for a young starting pitcher who is on the verge of being ready for the big leagues; righty Chance Adams may be the Yankees prospect that best fits this description, though there isn’t any indication the Pirates are specifically targeting Adams.
Cole has been linked to the Yankees in rumors throughout the Winter Meetings, though New York was (at least at one point) under the impression that Cole wasn’t being made available. Then again, Pittsburgh hasn’t given much indication all offseason if the team plans to start selling off pieces or if it still plans to contend in 2018. Cole, Andrew McCutchen, and Josh Harrison have drawn the most trade buzz this winter, with the consensus being that McCutchen is the likeliest to be dealt regardless of whether the Bucs are going for it or not. Since McCutchen is only under contract through 2018, adding a big league-ready young outfielder like Frazier would seem to fit right into the Bucs’ plans.
Trading McCutchen or Harrison would free up more money from the Pirates’ 2018 payroll, though dealing Cole would also be the bigger indicator that Pittsburgh will explore at least a soft rebuild. Cole is also set for a pretty healthy salary next season (projected by MLBTR to earn $7.5MM) in his second year of arbitration eligibility, though hardly a big sum for a team like the Yankees, their desire to get under the luxury tax threshold notwithstanding. There is no shortage of teams that would be interested in two years of control over a 27-year-old who has shown ace-like stuff in the past — the Twins, Rangers, and Orioles are a few other teams known to have checked in with the Pirates on Cole this offseason.
Cole posted a 4.26 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 3.56 K/BB rate over 203 innings for Pittsburgh last season. It was the second time Cole has topped the 200-inning mark in his young career, as he bounced back nicely from an injury-shortened 2016 season. One worrisome number, however, was a big spike in home runs allowed, as Cole’s 1.4 HR/9 rate was more than double his 0.6 career mark prior to last season. He was hardly the only pitcher to run into trouble with the long ball in 2017, though it is a bit of a troubling statistic if Cole is moving from pitcher-friendly PNC Park to a hitters’ paradise like Yankee Stadium.
Frazier has already been part of one blockbuster deal in his young career, as he and Justus Sheffield were the headliners of the prospect package the Indians sent to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade in July 2016. The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Frazier has long been touted as one of the game’s best prospects, ranked as high as 16th in the sport by the Baseball Prospectus top 100 list prior to the 2017 season.
For all of Frazier’s promise, however, he may be an expendable part in the Bronx. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge look to own the corner outfield slots for years to come, with Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and in reserve roles. (This doesn’t even account for other prospects like Estevan Florial, or the possibility that the Yankees could pursue another star outfielder like Bryce Harper in free agency.) New York’s farm system is more than deep enough to withstand the potential loss of Frazier or a pitcher like Adams for a young arm of Cole’s caliber, as he would slot right into a scary starting five that also includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery.