After being featured in trade rumors all off-season, it appears Pirates ace Gerrit Cole is now on the move to Houston. That’s right, the defending World Series champs just got even better. As of now, we don’t know who the Astros are sending back to Pittsburgh, but I would assume it will be prospects rather than Major League talent. I would also assume there would be some corresponding moves on the Pirates’ end to sell off Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, possibly more.
Cole is 27 years old, and, make no mistake, he is an ace. He had a bit of a down year in 2018 with the struggling Pirates, where he put up an ERA of 4.26, but he was able to keep is ERA- at a league average 100 and his FIP- at 96. Cole is a strong strikeout pitcher, ranked 23rd in baseball in K% in 2017, and he also gets a ton of ground balls, ranking 28th in the league. At just 27, after 2 relatively down years, I think a change of scenery will be perfect for him.
Gerrit Cole has been very good in his short career, racking up WARs of 2.5, 2.3, 5.5, 2.5, and 3.1, and he will be joining an already fantastic pitching staff that includes top-tier arms in Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. I can’t help but think this move was made as a way of thinking ahead to try to stop the Yankee’s ridiculously powerful lineup come October.
The Astros will have to give up a decent amount in return, but for a team coming off a title that is clearly in win now mode, prospects don’t really mean much. This gives Houston 2 years of another top-tier pitcher, and I think it just made them the favorites to repeat as World Series Champions. Huge move for the Astros. Maybe the hot stove is finally heating up.