Gerrit Cole was traded by the Pirates to the Astros on Saturday in a deal that brought back Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin. We’ve heard rumors that the Pirates have been asked about other players beyond Cole, with the big two being Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. I’ve felt that Cole would be the first to move, and the team would follow by selling other players after that. Jerry Crasnick says that this seems to be the feeling from teams as well, with Andrew McCutchen possibly being the next to move.

That would make sense. McCutchen is only under team control for the 2018 season, and the Pirates aren’t winning in 2018 now that Cole is gone. It would also make sense to move Harrison and any other player who is under control for one or two years, or anyone who plays a position where there are prospects available to take over. In Harrison’s case, the Pirates could transition to Max Moroff immediately, with Kevin Kramer in Triple-A.

As for the Cole trade, my big issue with the move was that the Pirates didn’t get a lot of upside. They acquired four players who could play in the majors, and the risk is lower with all of them. But that lower risk comes with a lower ceiling across the board. When thinking about it further, the Pirates might get the better return due to quantity, but I could see Gerrit Cole as the best player in the deal going forward, and no other player matching him in value.

Buster Olney reports that the Pirates may have had their choice between this package and a deal with the Yankees that had higher ceiling prospects in return.

Crasnick added that the Astros and Yankees both made a lot of their top prospects unavailable, and his report on the Yankees refutes the idea that the Pirates could have gotten anything close to the rumored deals involving Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar, with Andujar off-limits, and only one of Frazier or Adams available.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal has a column saying that people shouldn’t be quick to rush to judgement on the trade. Part of his argument is that trades don’t always work out as expected, which is true, but would also mean that you can never have an opinion on a trade at any stage. The more important point I think he makes is that Cole might not have had the value everyone expected, or that the Pirates may have believed there was a good chance his value could drop if he stuck around.

One of the common things I’ve seen about the trade is that the Pirates should have waited if this was the best return they could have received. However, if Cole had another year of league average results, it’s hard to see them getting even this package of players. And as much as I think Cole will rebound going forward, I don’t think you can guarantee that both the injury problems and the home run problems are going to be things of the past, limited to the 2016-17 seasons.

That would be the one argument in favor of making the deal right now if this is the return. My argument would be that the Pirates would have been better off going for more upside. I like the addition of Colin Moran, as there’s a chance his 2017 offense could be lasting, making him a valuable piece. But beyond Moran, I think the Pirates would have been better off going for some high upside, high risk guys in the lower levels, rather than going for more immediate value with a higher floor and lower upside.

I see Musgrove as a back of the rotation starter, Feliz as a potential late inning reliever, and Martin as a project who could make the majors in a bench role, or maybe a starting option. But none of those upsides are guaranteed, and none of them are especially high in value. The Pirates have put themselves in position where they need a lot of these guys to work out to make this deal worthwhile. There’s obviously more risk involved with going for lower level guys who have yet to break out just yet, but I feel there is more chance for upside, and more chance to make the deal worthwhile in the long run.

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