Williams: Thoughts on the Gerrit Cole Trade Rumors

One of the benefits of writing an eBook and releasing it in the way we’re releasing the Prospect Guide this year is that you can have last-minute changes. In the past, I would have needed the actual book sent to the publisher by last Wednesday or Thursday in order to get it back today, in order to get it shipped out in time for Christmas. With the eBook, we can make changes on Friday morning, save the file, upload it, and officially release the book that afternoon.

Still, I have a feeling the Pirates will make a last-minute move that will impact the book. We’re equipped to handle that, and could even release an update to the book if a major move comes right after the release. But my goal has been to finish the book a few days in advance of Friday’s release, which means I’ve been writing the last few profiles of the book over the weekend. Because of that, this column is going to be a bit more informal, and just some random thoughts on one topic in particular: Gerrit Cole.

**It’s fitting that I’m writing about Cole after that intro, because Cole is one of the biggest guys who could impact the top 50. If the Pirates end up trading him, the return would likely net a few top prospects that would shake up our rankings.

**The rumors over the weekend were that the Pirates are going for Gleyber Torres, and if they could actually pull that off, it would be a simple adjustment where we’d be shifting everyone down one spot in the rankings, with Torres at the top. The most common name mentioned has been Clint Frazier, who isn’t prospect eligible, combined with a few other prospects in addition.

**I don’t think the Pirates will be able to get Torres. The Yankees didn’t trade that caliber of prospect for Sonny Gray, and Cole is a similar pitcher with less control than Gray had. He’s also doesn’t have the stats right now that Gray had at the time of that trade (although he has put up those numbers in the past).

**On that same note, I think a return of Clint Frazier as the main part of the deal would be a good one, assuming there’s a good second piece in the deal. One of the names most thrown around has been Chance Adams. The A’s got some high upside guys for Gray, with a potential starting outfielder and a potential mid-rotation starter. They also got Jorge Mateo in the deal. If the Pirates can match the two key pieces by getting a potential starting outfielder in Frazier, and a potential mid-rotation starter in Adams, then they should definitely make that deal.

**In terms of any trade return, I wouldn’t be worried about need or the strength of the system right now. The Pirates have a lot of shortstop prospects, but I’d take Torres in a heartbeat.

They have Austin Meadows, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte as a future starting outfield, but until there are no questions surrounding that trio, I wouldn’t avoid adding other outfielders like Frazier.

They have plenty of starting pitching prospects in the upper levels, but you can never have too much pitching depth, especially when you’ve got a shot at more than a back of the rotation guy.

They aren’t strong at third base in the system, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to try and get Miguel Andujar, especially since I think Ke’Bryan Hayes has a better chance of being the future starter at third. Sure, get Andujar if you can as a second piece, but I wouldn’t center a deal around him just to try and fill a need at third base, especially when he’s not guaranteed to stick at third.

**The Yankees signed CC Sabathia over the weekend, but they’re still reportedly looking for another starter, and will likely fill that via trade, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post. So don’t think the Sabathia signing means the end of the Cole discussions.

**What will the Pirates do with their future rotation if they trade Cole? They’ll still have Jameson Taillon under control through the 2022 season. They have Mitch Keller in the upper levels, potentially making his debut in 2018, but more likely to be up in 2019 if they’re rebuilding. Tyler Glasnow still has top of the rotation stuff, but is more of a wild card at this point. And Shane Baz is the best starter with top of the rotation potential in the lower levels, but he is too far away to think about for the next few years. Taillon and Keller will lead the rotation in the future, with the hope that they can add someone else via trade, free agency, or development.

**If the Pirates trade Cole, then they should follow that up by trading Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, and anyone else under control only through the 2018 and 2019 seasons. No use keeping those guys around when this team isn’t built to contend without Cole. Even with Cole, they’ve only got an outside chance.

**And now I’ll get back to writing up the final profiles of the book. You’ll know when I’m finished. It will be right before the Pirates inevitably make a move to change the top 50. That top 50 will be released on Friday, and you can pre-order the eBook here to get the list when it comes out.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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The Pirates should have moved Cervelli, Freese, Nova, Harrison, Hudson (if that was possible), and possibly even Mercer last July before the trade deadline – obviously, too late for that now. But, I agree, the Pirates either have to move forward or backward – they cannot stand still – so, if they decide to move Cole, they should just do the complete re-build. It won’t help ticket sales in 2018, but if the Pirates FO is transparent, honest, and moves to regain trust, Pirates fans have shown to be long suffering if not patient. I can support a rebuild, as long as I see evidence of a vision and plan – and that all draft picks, trades, signings, etc. are done in context of the vision and plan. As of now, I don’t see any evidence of a vision or plan – other than do nothing (or very little). It was “out of the box” thinking (like drafting and signing Bell) that captured my attention – small market teams have to be creative. MLB is stacked and rigged against small market teams.

Francis C

Disagree with Tim’s take on Miguel Andujar. He worked his way last year from AA to the Yankees. Plus he posted a .866 OPS at AAA Scranton. (16 HR’s and 82 rbi’s combined at AA and AAA). The Pirates need a third baseman badly (unless you want to see David Freese and committee there all year long.) Good luck with that combo. Plus, it’s way to early to be thinking Ke’bryan Hayes. Cole for Frazier and Andjuar is NH’s best bet. But he won’t pull the trigger on that one.


You assume that the Yanks will.


Maybe he can get Chance Adams as well. I’d take all 3, but doubtful we could. Perhaps if NH said Boston was looking into Cole as well lol.

joe s

I have been advocating a trade of Cole for two years now. He is not going to reach his potential with the pirates, so trade him now for the best package of prospects they can get, no matter who they are or what position they play. Do not miss out on this opportunity.


Also, I absolutely loved Tim’s take on potentially getting Miguel Andujar.

Seems to me it’s completely likely that in two years KeBryan Hayes is the better option at 3B, there’s no other position for Andujar to play, and the club hasn’t tried contending in the interim.

Arik Florimonte

Silly not to get two guys just because they’re at the same position. The bust rate on prospects is about 2/3 once they are in the top 25. And it only gets worse below that.


Well of course, but that’s not at all what I’m arguing.

I’m responding to the numerous calls for Andujar to be in the deal in the first place, which, if you can tell me an actual reason other than that he plays 3B I’m all ears.

Scott K

If they deal Cole, the worst thing to get in return is a ML ready average to above average starter. Would be much better off getting a couple high ceiling younger prospects with star potential. Likely not competing before next decade starts.

Blaine Huff

I have to agree.

If you pass on Andujar and Hayes:

1. Takes a beaner…
2. Breaks an ankle or wrist or whatever..
3. Just doesn’t progress…

You’re left with Andujar and a failed/delayed prospect.

My goodness, if they both pan out…then you have a trade chip…what a nice problem to have.


Though I thought Tim was pointing out that he felt Andujar would be moving off 3B. That would mean you’re left with a potential poor fielding corner outfielder.

Blaine Huff

That could be the case…but if Hayes is everything that’s promised…meh…Andujar can be flipped…especially if he plays to his potential. If he doesn’t…or whoever the Pirates do acquire doesn’t…it’s a bum deal and there’s not much you can do other than replace him and lick your wounds.

I just don’t think you rate who you want by who’s a year or two away in the minors. Andujar looks ready now…and he looks like he will be very good. My opinion would be different if Hayes had 100+ PAs in AAA and seemed to be holding his own…but a guy that’s never taken a swing in AA? Too early to start thinking about a logjam at the position.

Nuke Laloosh

Would you be willing to include Rivero in the deal if it meant getting Torres and Frazier? I personally would like to see Andujar as part of a deal for Cole. Doubt we will see a deal.

Arik Florimonte

Rivero by himself should get at least 4 prospects, including 2 top-100 guys.


Just to clarify, Rivero probably has a surplus value of about $65 million. That might be enough for Torres but not for anyone else. It could be used for two lower top prospects though. For instance, Cole and Rivero could conceivably bring Torres, Frazier, and Adams in return.

F Lang

The time to deal a closer as good as Rivero is at the deadline. He is a difference maker for some team in contention and a huge weapon in a short series with days off.


Unless someone makes an offer based on the assumption that Rivero will be as good the next 4 years as he was last year, in which case the time to deal is now, assuming they are doing a rebuild lite

F Lang

Why the hell am I showing up as F Lang and not freddylang? I verified my email the other day and now this. I’ve lost my Pirates Prospects identity!!!


I like this F Lang guy more than freddy tbh. 😉


For cole and rivero we should be able to get all 3, if they value rivero


The best part of a rebuild would be trotting glasnow out for an entire season and seeing what you have if he hasn’t turned around by Sept get him used to the pen. Severino had an 8.5 era in ’16 Snell had a big turnaround in 2nd half last year. Frazier Adams isn’t exciting but it probably is passable. Whiping salaries off and giving young guys trials is the key provided there’s at least moderate success in trades.

dr dng

I’ll repeat what I posted earlier.
“Make ’em pay.”


Hearing Gleybar’s name come up as Huntington’s request over the weekend brought bad flashbacks of a year ago.

While it admittedly felt at the time like Huntington was somewhat triumphant for sticking to his guns in demanding Victor Robles from the Nats, that feeling just hasn’t held up as being a prudent negotiation. Thing is, sometimes an untouchable player really is untouchable, and a negotiation that focuses on said player misses what could be a lot of other valuable acquisitions.

Just last year alone the Nats traded a pre-arb reliever who’d immediately become the second-best guy in the Pirates’ pen, a 3B in AA who profiles as an average big leaguer with power upside, a lefty starter who broke out and may be one of the top LHP prospects in the game…before even getting to the Adam Eaton prospects!

The Nats had very, very real value in their system to mine for a player of Cutch’s worth, and the Pirates got none of it in pursuit of one player who, yes, turned out to really be untouchable.

Cole’s situation is at least somewhat different, since pitchers retain or even grow their value at the deadline as opposed to position players like Cutch, but the lesson should hold. The Yankees have a ton of talent available, *not* named Gleybar Torres.


I agree. I would in a way relish the other GM saying no – because I would feel it gives me the right/opportunity to now ask for more to make up for the one guy being off limits.

I also wonder if NH is any good at this type of thing. He has a bit of a proven record for trading for hidden talent – but I really can’t think of a prospect he went for that became an all star (although I imagine Locke would count as one).

So how do we even know if that guy he is aiming for is actually the “best” guy to be aiming for?


I really like this point. Particularly in a system like the one the Yankees have, you could tack on a couple kids with legitimate upside so far from the Majors that New York likely wouldn’t care by targeting assets NOT including the one they’re not gonna trade anyways.

Stephen Brooks

Devil’s advocate – unless we’re addressing the organizational weak spot (catcher), wouldn’t the Pirates be better off with one 60 FV than with two 50 FV guys? They’re not horrible anywhere, so the floor is already high. It’s the ceiling that needs to rise. So why not exhaust all possibilities trying to get the Robles or Torres into your system?


“…wouldn’t the Pirates be better off with one 60 FV than with two 50 FV guys?”


“So why not exhaust all possibilities trying to get the Robles or Torres into your system?”

Because you run the risk of getting neither the 60 FV guy you want nor the two 50 FV guys you deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy Huntington. These aren’t easy decisions, and I take no pleasure in just screaming at him for “better deals”. This is hard! But I do think there comes a time where you gotta be damn sure your “internal valuation” matches reality, and understand when the guy you’re negotiating with really means “untouchable”.

That, or change your own parameters. A 50 FV in A-ball inherently is going to come with more upside, and more risk, than a 50 FV who’s Major League ready. If you can’t get Torres, get the next Torres.

Stephen Brooks

We’re probably arguing semantics. I would assume you are not proposing NH walk into the conversation with “I’ve looked at this from your side, matched our internal evaluations to reality and I know we’re never getting Torres, so let’s talk Frazier and some other pieces” as a *starting point*; but rather the question is how quickly do you move on and how well you read the negotiation. Huntington and Cashman have done enough deals that you hope Neal knows when to hold them and when to fold them.

Fundamentally, my point remains that the Pirates already have a ton of average on the field and in the system, and selling off one of their few plus guys for a basket of more average seems a poor strategy to get out of no man’s land. He’s got to turn Cole into one 4+ WAR asset or multiple 3+ WAR assets or all he’s done is saved the cash.


Very much agreed.

Blaine Huff

“Because you run the risk of getting neither the 60 FV guy you want nor the two 50 FV guys you deserve.”

Excellent point.

…your “internal valuation” matches reality”

…and another!

And, I think, this is where Huntington is viewed with suspicion.

Is the scouting department he’s assembled credible enough to be trusted with the valuations? If they’re not, I think you have to demand the biggest and best the trading partner has, just to be safe.

How’s NH been in this area? We can look at the highest profile trade he’s conducted: Jason Bay…on the surface, the Pirates got fleeced, but there’s more to it than that. Moss went on to have a decent post-Pirates career, putting up 24 HRs and a 113+ OPS from ’12-’17 and Morris consistently outpitched his peripherals and put up some good seasons…sadly, though these guys were “okay” they never really mattered for the Pirates. Hansen and LaRoche were just busts. The Pirates didn’t get much out of that deal…out of the three teams involved, they surely got the worst of it. But that was nearly a decade ago…so, I think, the statute of limitations for bearing that cross has expired.

Acquiring Hanrahan? Not a prospect…

Trading Hanrahan for Melancon? Neither Melancon nor Sands were prospects…DeJesus and Pimentel never panned out.

Trading Melancon? Rivero wasn’t a prospect, but Hearn is…no idea what this makes of the swap in the context of valuation.

With Burnett and Cervelli, I don’t think the valuations is an issue…these weren’t prospects.

Snider? Not a major deal at all…but Neal really hasn’t traded for a ton of prospects. This is a wash so far. Tarpley is beginning to look like a long-shot to have a meaningful career and Brault hasn’t done much (0.3 WAR)…though you have to think the latter has the chance to make this a good deal for the Pirates.

All-in-all…I don’t think a case can be made that Huntington and Co. are or aren’t good at acquiring meaningful prospects in significant deals…it just hasn’t been done that often. It seems the usual path is that good players are traded for under-performing Major League players (Hanrahan and Melancon (coming and going), Rivero, Cervelli, Morris, and Moss) and then some lottery tickets are kicked in.

After reading all this, I think I’ve convinced myself that I’d be shocked to see that Huntington traded Cole for prospects only…I’m now of the opinion that a trade centered around Frazier is probably more to his liking.

Damn, I really ramble sometimes…


You’re not gonna hear any pleas for brevity from this guy!

Ron Zorn

A thought. Only way Cole’s value doesn’t increase at the deadline is if he is a flop. Contending teams with injuries will still pay a king’s ransom for a high quality starter with more than a couple month’s of control


And if healthy I’d bet on a better year than the last 2, further increasing his value


Risk vs reward….Unless the reward is considerably greater 7/31 than now it alludes why wait…


thing is… all pitchers flop. pitchers break all the time.

Cole needing Tommy John surgery in May would be pretty much the worst.


Hell, even Cole tweaking an oblique in May likely takes him off the block at the deadline, for all intents and purposes.


Or injury, of course.

I generally agree that a club acquiring Cole isn’t getting him to eat innings in June, they’re getting him to win a pennant and pitch in the playoffs. But he’s gotta get to the deadline healthy in order to capitalize on that premium.


We are lucky we are not talking about Kris Benson then.


great minds think alike

John W

It’s sickening to think about. NH has us so boxed in at this point in time.


Neal Huntington has us boxed in, or Bob Nutting’s parsimonious way of running this franchise has us boxed in? Even Helen Keller, if she were alive today, would know the obvious answer to that question. News flash: It ain’t Neal Huntington


Wow! What an oddly bizarre (and inaccurate to boot) flashback to the non-sensitivity era!

The whole point of the Helen Keller story was about the bright woman that was trapped behind her disabilities. Not that she was smart…

John W

Neal is very much complicit and bears responsibility- I know that is uncomfortable for many to admit.

Raniel C

not me, I agree 100%. I am not saying to give Cole away but he needs to be traded. I would take Andujar -put him as your starting 3B, Frazier who would allow you to trade Cutch and RHP Chad Greene, a 26 year old starter that has no future as a starter with the Yankees but was 5-0, 1.83 era with 103ks in 69ip last year.


Thats not a bad package, but I doubt the Yankees are offering that. My guess is they are offering 1 positions player (Frazier or Andjuar) 1 pitcher (not sheffield) and then low tier guys.


I think at this point it’s pretty clear that blame is shared.

Nutting, for his warts, has been described as anything *but* heavy handed. There’s really no indication that he has much input on individual moves or direction of the organization in general. Available funding, or lack there of, is absolutely a massive issue for Huntington that factors into the decisions he makes every single day, but I’d also argue that some of the decisions *not* influenced heavily by payroll – decisions of Huntington’s responsibility, have been less than efficient.


I refer everyone to last year at this time a whole lot of talk of trading McCutchen and nothing happened. So my money is on. NO trade of Cole, no trade of McCutchen, no trade of Harrison and finally no trade of Cervelli.


Agree, but all will be gone by the July Trade Deadline

Scott K

I won’t have a problem with this outcome. I’m foolish enough to bet on the long shot of competing for a title this year. And if things don’t go as hoped by AS break, blow it up and build a new window.


I tend to agree with you and NH needs ti go bold, but for all we know NY may be offering only Adams and their #25 best. In which case they may have no choice but to move on.


welp, then they had better get reaaaallly creative and buy something good to add to those guys


Unfortunately, for me that is also a big NO….I just see NH as a play it safe GM not a trader Jack McKeon or current Dave Dombrowski and hope for players to exceed expectations big time for success…

Jack S

Clint Frazier and Meadows are friends??????

Scott K

Both definitely played in same youth program. Went to HS’s a few miles apart, but in different size classifications.

I live in Austin’s hometown, and I guarantee you lots of people around here would love to see them playing together as teammates in Pittsburgh, or any other MLB city.


Both are Georgia boys around the same age. Teammates at one point in life iirc.

Jack S

STOP IT Trade Cole or not. This GM needs to make decisions or resign.


Opening Day is still 100 days away. Relax. Making good moves is way more important than making moves early simply to satisfy people’s impatience.


As said last year and we got noone and traded noone. That worked out great


Does one year make a pattern? It seems we’ve made good and bad moves at all different time frames of the off-season and the timing is more or less random.

Edit: For my own curiosity I looked up the timing of the 4 biggest off-season moves by NH (aka as the 1st 4 that poped in my head so I am most likely over looking something big) Martin FA and Walker trade happened before 12/18 and Liriano FA and Burnett trade well after. I know the Liriano deal got held up but, iirc it wasn’t initially announced until right before Xmas. And Burnett didn’t come over until February.


We traditionally wait until late, therefore your ability to see the trades or free agency players we missed out on mpre specifically, is quite muted. Youll see almost noone other than resigns done until after the winter meetings, and tjats when most pf tje optio s are off the board. See the walker trade for a good example


I don’t think they traditionally do any such thing. It’s a league wide trend where the offseason wraps up closer and closer to spring training as front offices get smarter and value the same players. Just this morning MLBTR posted their “top 50 free agents” and the top 13 are still unsigned. It’s not a Pirate thing. It’s a league wide thing. You can find examples of teams missing out on someone who signed early and also find examples of teams way overpaying someone early in the off-season because they misread the market.


Teams that strike early seem to add those most impact players. If you make a move early (if you are adding players especially) it shows other FA’s that you want to win, and increases the ease of getting more people to sign.


While this may generally be true at times, other than RP’s almost everyone is still on the market!

Whether or not they should be players in this bullpen market would be a whole different debate but, this joker saying NH should resign simply because he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet on what we all seem to agree is his biggest chip is a bit absurd. There are a lot of Sp’s on the market and teams weighing acquiring them with either money or via prospects. Some of those teams might be inclined to go further with prospects for Cole after they’ve missed out on someone else they could have had through FA.



fair enough. A lot of people make very inaccurate statements to try to prove a very valid point. I think that’s what happened in this circumstance.


Uh, nope, ya got ’em all.


I can never be too sure with my memories’ ability to completely forget things that were kinda big. I did one of those “name all the Pirates from year to year” things on Bucsdugout recently and somehow managed to get over 80% of the answers despite somehow completely forgetting Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. How in the hell that happens I’ll never understand.

Jack S

And NH has made the right moves????

Scott K

Repeatedly, but not exclusively.


Your “point” is completley irrelevant. You don’t get bonus wins for having your roster completed before christmas.

J Nader

That’s a completely different argument? Why do you want someone who you think hasn’t made good deals, to rush into his next one?


Because his lack of urgency is generally what forces him into bad trades

Ron Zorn

Getting Rivero and Hearn for two months of Melancon seems like a pretty good move.


That may have been NH’s best trade…even if Hearn amounts to nothing….


Or Hanrahan for Melancon

Daniel D

Or Tony Plush and Sean Burnett for Hanrahan


Good point and it was a pretty good move. However, with Sean Rodriguez as the “what have you done for us lately” candidate, how much credit should NH be afforded.

I would like to see NH pair Cole and JHay to the Yankees for Frazier, Sheffield, Andujar, and Heller. Am I overreaching?

Paul Rutledge

Yes. You are overreaching.


It’s definitely time to get back to that prospects guide. You’re holding up the whole off-season trade program. They really can’t make any significant trades until you are locked in (more or less) with the prospect order. 🙂


If the pirates go the rebuild (or “retool”) route, and I think they should, I agree with clearing out other high priced veterans like Cutch, Harrison, and Cervelli. But those moves are mostly advantageous from a financial perspective – those guys are not likely to get us prospects of the quality that will meaningfully impact our rebuild timleline. Putting aside our emotional attachment, none of those guys are premier producers that will generate a return of premier prospects. Which is why I am a strong proponent of trading Felipe Rivero – even though he is cheap and cost controlled. With the market craziness around relief pitching, the pirates should capitalize. No use having a dominant closer on a non-playoff team. His value is much higher on a payroll limited playoff contender, and we should be able to get a Gleyber Torres like prospect for him.


I’m not sure what it is that you believe you would get for Rivero. It would probably be in the vicinity of two top prospects. The risk of even top prospects panning out is not a guarantee so likely scenario is that you flip Rivero (a star closer) for another future star (at some other position).

Now you would get two additional years of that star but he probably won’t be all that good during those first two years. So it sounds like a wash


I’d use the Chapman and Miller hauls that NYY got as comps for Rivero. I’d rather load up on players that can be above average position players or starters rather than hold onto a star closer. You need a strong core to regularly put the team in position to close games, having a dominant closer on a team hat rarely wins is wasted value. Also timing is an important factor. If we are rebuilding we won’t be highly competitive for 2 years – wasting the value of have a cheap and dominant closer during that time.

Ron Zorn

I agree, if we are going to blow it up, go all the way. Including Rivero. Not that I don’t love him, I do, but if he can fetch what other’s have got to go all in.


I’d say that the price for top relievers/closers, more than any other position, is highest at the trade deadline. No reason to trade Rivero while Cole and Cutch are still on the team.

John W

The more I think about it I’m really not crazy about Clint Frazier as the centerpiece of a Gerrit Cole trade…


I’m not either – his prospect status is trending down, not up. IMHO, he’s a role player, but not a player to rebuild around – Torres has that potential, Frazier does not.


for me, it comes down to what his defense is looking like.

can he be a good LF/RF? i’m in!
can he be a mediocre or even slightly bad McCutchen-level CF? i’m in!
is he bad everywhere? i’m probably not in.

his hitting results haven’t been good enough to just turn a blind eye to the defense.

but yeah… i’d rather they just go all out and do whatever they can do to get Gleyber… eating salary, adding Jay Hay or Newman, etc

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