The trade of Gerrit Cole capped an offseason that strengthened the defending champion Astros
Just a few short months ago, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager grounded out to Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve to clinch the Astros’ first World Series title in franchise history. Yet the Astros continue to build up their stockpile, with the latest addition being Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. On Saturday afternoon, the deal was announced with Houston sending over starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, third baseman Colin Moran, relief pitcher Michael Feliz and outfielder Jason Martin. For a seemingly lackluster Major League Baseball offseason, the trade offers some respite. Cole, a former number one overall pick in 2011, has seen his numbers decline recently. This past season, Cole finished 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. While that statline is far from remarkable, any durability concerns were answered through all 203 innings pitched in 2017. Additionally, Cole has two years of team control left, at a cap hit around $7 million.
The Pirates receive four prospects who are all in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Joe Musgrove is a pitcher who started in the Astros rotation at the beginning of last season but compiled a bloated 6.12 ERA in 12 starts before transferring to the bullpen. In the bullpen, Musgrove found a groove to the tune of a 1.44 ERA in 23 appearances, but the Pirates will give him every chance to start. Colin Moran was the sixth overall pick back in 2013 out of the University of North Carolina, and most recently was listed as the No. 9 prospect in the Astros’ farm system by Baseball America. Moran most recently played at Triple-A but is ready for an extended Major League appearance in Pittsburgh. Primarily a third baseman, Moran excelled at the plate last season, hitting .308 with 16 home runs. He is well in line to replace David Freese as Pittsburgh’s long-term answer at the hot corner. Feliz is a reliever who has electric stuff but struggles to command his pitches. He will slot into the Pirates bullpen immediately. Martin has hit with some gaudy numbers, but a perceived lack of athleticism and power by evaluators limits his potential. The Astros were able to win 101 games and the World Series with very limited time from starting pitcher Justin Verlander. Now with Gerrit Cole, they are the definition of reload and return.
Elsewhere in Major League Baseball, arbitration cases are now being finalized as players and teams passed the deadline for contract extensions. The most notable players who will have upcoming arbitration hearings are Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Astros right fielder George Springer and Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. An impartial three-person arbitration panel will then consider both sides and decide whether the salary the player filed at or the salary the team filed at is most accurate to the players worth, with nothing in between. Stroman provides an interesting example, since the difference between the filed salaries is quite minute. For each player, it is worth noting that they have multiple years of team control remaining, meaning that those players have little risk of being let go by their team. Do not fret if one of your team’s stars is on that arbitration list, as it simply decides upon a one-year salary for said player.
Free agency has gotten off to a molasses slow start this offseason. The reigning American League Central champion Cleveland Indians have lost some significant pieces from their American League Championship Series team a year ago. First baseman Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and right fielder Jay Bruce signed with the New York Mets. Top remaining players include starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, first baseman Eric Hosmer and right fielder J.D. Martinez.