10:51am: A deal is “imminent,” Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets.
10:29am: Whitley is likely to be considered “untouchable” by the ’Stros, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter), though it seems the two young outfielders could still be in play in discussions.
10:17am: The Astros and Pirates appear to be “picking up steam” in talks involving Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Negotiations on Cole were reported recently, as Astros owner Jim Crane has made clear his organization is interested in adding a major starter.
Cole, 27, has long been seen as a front-line power starter, though he has had some stumbles in the past two seasons. While he topped two hundred innings and threw as hard as ever in 2017, he only managed a 4.26 ERA.
As always, contract rights are a key component of value. Cole is controllable for two more seasons via arbitration. MLBTR’s arbitration projections suggest he could earn $7.5MM for the 2018 season after a $3.75MM salary in 2017.
It remains unclear just what kind of trade package would suffice to pry Cole free from the Bucs, who originally selected him with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has suggested (Twitter link) that Pittsburgh is holding out for a headliner such as outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, while the ’Stros are understandably hoping to hold on to their two top-rated prospects. The sides are also said to have discussed young outfielder Derek Fisher.
Also of note is the fact that, per Sanchez, Cole “was Houston’s top target last summer” when the organization was searching to bolster its rotation. It seems the prior interests has carried into the offseason. Of course, other organizations may also still be involved. At one point, the Yankees were said to be gaining momentum toward a deal for Cole, though that chatter evidently cooled down. Other organizations surely also have interest in the righty.