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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184 COMMENTS

  1. If the Yankees were willing to give up Chance Adams…I would have went with him and the other prospect they offered. Moran fills a need at third though. It is a bonus that he bats left-handed too. PNC is accommodating to lefties.

  2. Let’s see who they got back for Cutch. Giants system is crap. If it’s not a low level player with an immense ceiling they should have just held onto Cutch. Otherwise what’s the point.

    • The point of trading these guys is to improve the organizations overall talent level, isn’t it? I don’t know how the hell they expect to compete with absolutely no star players on the team.

  3. They had to do something at 3rd. While many have called for just trading Cole for a power-hitting 3rd baseman, let’s assume that none of those were being offered in trade. NH had a plan to bridge to Hayes as the next 3rd baseman; his name is Kang. The ramifications of Kang’s actions keep on coming – a variation on the troubles caused by leaving Randa exposed in the expansion draft 20 years ago. Hopefully, Moran provides some of that lost production, along with more from Freese if he’s able to be rested.

    It comes down to “ifs.” Here’s another scenario that occurs to me. Let’s assume Musgrove doesn’t distinguish himself from the rest of the back-of-the-rotation options in the system as a starter, but continues the good bullpen production. Let’s hope that some adjustments to Feliz makes him more like Rivero, rather than Rivero-like. Let’s further assume that Rivero remains as dominant as last year. Now what happens at the deadline when some contender is willing to overpay for a dominant closer?

  4. My view is a bit different. I don’t see Cole as a make or break in 18. I don’t see this team radically different with or wo him unless you planned for Cole of 15. Cole of 17 is easily replaced. Unless blown away with prospects you keep Cutch. If he does well you get the same at the deadline if out of it.

    Per above I don’t see much difference with or wo Cole and you see what full year of Marte, cont dev of Kuhl and taiilion, Moran upside over freeze, etc gets you. Of course unless the money is yhat critical for cutch.

    Harrison I would at trading

  5. What are the chances the Pirates go with more of a “Piggyback” approach to starting pitching this year with all the back end starting pitching depth? 4 or 5 innings from your starter, 2-3 innings from a long man, pass it off to Kontos or Michael Feliz and finally to Felipe Rivero to end it.

    • They sure do seem like a team ripe to try something like that, don’t they?

      They also have a bunch of pitchers with personalities that kinda seem like they would go with the flow with something that.

  6. The problems with this trade as I see it are this:

    1) We have a metric crap ton of potential back of the rotation starters right now already in AAA.

    2) If Huntington does have any redeeming skill as a GM, it seems to be building cheap, serviceable bullpens (just ask Buster Onley!).

    The needs are 3B and OF (depth). This team went months with only two legitimate outfielders on the roster. Friese has been proven to have far more value in being only an occasional starter. 3B is a gaping hole.

    All Huntington has done is lower payroll (by 6.xx) million, removed a guy who gave #2-3 starter level production in the rotation (despite having far better tools than results), and further clouded the 40 man roster with fringe options.

    Trading Cole for one legitimate power bat outfielder or 3B would have been the best move.

  7. At this point people are clamoring to trade Cutch and Harrison. Those guys are going to bring minimal returns- will be lucky if between the 2 of them they yield one player who plays a meaningful role in 2019 and beyond. But I don’t think people realize how putrid this team will be without Cutch and Harrison (and obviously Cole). People deluding themselves that Max Moroff and a mishmash of Luplow/Meadows is going to approximate that lost production(which is probably only about 5.5 WAR cumulatively) are smoking some serious stuff. This team is in big trouble.

    I would love to see them trade Jhay and Cutch and hold a lot of that saved cash for future investment (either in 2019-20 free agents or on scouting) but that’s not going to happen.

  8. The Pirates Fed up so badly bringing NH back. There was an avenue to make this team a lot better 2-3 years from now. That is almost gone now. The Cole trade is your first indication of NH’s “ability” to rebuild this team. We won’t get into his drafting resume over the last 10 years.

      • No, that is the point – it doesn’t take a professional baseball person to realize the stupidity of some of NH’s moves and draft picks. Connor Joe, Will Craig to name two recent picks, the Walker/Niese trade, etc.

  9. I have a real problem with the narrative that the Pirates aren’t winning in 2018 because Cole has been traded.

    First, definitive statements like this are patently absurd given there seem to be surprise teams, see 2017 Minnesota Twins, nearly every year. Next, the fact the Pirates acquired 3 players who are major league ready, and solidify weak spots on the roster, make me think Pirates believe they can compete this season for a playoff spot.

    Granted, they will need almost everything to go right, and almost no player have a down season, but isn’t that the case for every medium and small market teams every year?

    • “Granted, they will need almost everything to go right, and almost no player have a down season, but isn’t that the case for every medium and small market teams every year?”

      No. No it is not.

  10. I doubt the Pirates move Cutch or Harrison at this point. I think they are done and think they are going to be very competitive with what they have. If they got a bag of peanuts and popcorn for Cole what would they expect to get for either of them. The return for Watson seems to have more upside then the Cole trade.

  11. Sorry Tim,

    but I just don’t buy your assertion: “and the Pirates aren’t winning in 2018 now that Cole is gone “. I expect the Bucs to be above .500 this year. How far above .500 will depend on how far several existing players bounce back. All that was proven with Cole on the team was that the Bucs weren’t able to advance beyond the Wild Card round with him. They can achieve that same distinction without Cole. Aside from 2015, Cole was a # 2 to #4 type of pitcher, never living up to expectations. Can he become more than that in Houston with additional experience and maturity? Yes, look at Charlie Morton’s example. Would the Bucs be able to sign him to a long term contract in two years? Never. So trading him within the next year was their only option, and given his last two years performance they probably got the best that they could. Certainly addressing 3B with their best trade chip was what they needed to do.
    I also don’t agree with the idea of trading Cole for “higher upside prospects” that are further away from MLB. Moran was a top 10 draft pick in his year, as was Cole. How is that not a “high upside” pick right there not counting the other three players? I’d rather see them supporting a competitive team this year the way they did.

    • Morton was a salary dump- Cole was not. Cole was simply a trade dictated by NH’s half baked idea that this team can be a perpetual contender.

        • Leo my man! Where you been? Still a bit confused eh? Morton was plenty productive from 2013-15 which is why Fangraphs has him at over 30M in value. Don’t get me wrong, he was no Niese or Vogelsong though.

          No he wasn’t nearly as good until Houston fixed his pitch mix but he was not “unproductive”

  12. Okay, maybe Cole goes back to 2015 form but with half of his games in the Houston launching pad stadium and facing a DH routinely, my bet is that he is among the top five in HR allowed next year.

    • He may do well because American League hitters have not yet figured him out a la Liriano when he came to Pittsburgh.

    • I think he’ll do well in Houston, in part because he’ll benefit from pitching with and learning from guys like Verlander.

      What worries me about Cole is if batters can lay off his sliders that end up out of the zone, then he runs into trouble putting hitters away. And this reminds me of the problems Liriano seemed to run into.

      • I can see him improving, as well.

        Having a mentor will help, but I also think being buried in the rotation behind 2 studs will help. He won’t have to be the staff ace and will probably be facing less of them. As well, it’ll probably benefit his psyche quite a bit pitching with 204 run leads.

        If he can avoid the HRs, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cole put up a mid 4 WAR or better…and I don’t think he’d do the same with the Pirates.

  13. Two things
    1. If you get drafted by the Yankees you’re probably going to stay there for at least five years and then if you’re not any good they’ll get rid of you.
    2. The Pirates are better off holding their player to the last possible minute before they trade him or they won’t get the other team best player.

    Granted I don’t know anything about these guys they picked up for Cole. But the way your talking on TV MLB they should have gotten more.

  14. So, NH allowed the Astros and Yankees to define the acceptable parameters for a trade and caved to those parameters, instead of walking away. That is why NH is a weak GM and not a very savvy trade partner. Cole’s value may have increased dramatically if he has a good first half of the 2018 season, and he could have been moved at the deadline – which is what I would have done instead of settling for a lower value return.

    Controllable years are nice, if they are for players you want for those years – all of the players acquired are either low ceiling or complete unknowns. None are likely to be building blocks for a championship team – role players at best.

    If they could have gotten less, but higher ceiling, prospects from the Yankees or elsewhere, that would have been a better return. This trade will be evaluated over the next 2-3 years – and 2018 will likely be a very good indicator. The two pitchers can be useful bullpen arms, but I am not sold on Moran and even less so on Martin. Moran has been in the minors for 4-5 years now, and had his first taste of success in AAA last year – and that was in the PCL which requires an asterisk.

    • Luhnow said the Astros have been working to get Cole since the trade deadline, which implies that the parameters were negotiated. Obviously the Pirates didn’t get as much as we’d like, but surely they got more than the Astros were originally offering.

      WRT Moran, I’ve read in a number of places that he’s one of the most divisive prospects out there which is partly due to how much one believes in the change in his swing mechanics going into 2017. There’s just no way to know how much faith to put into his 2017–was it due to the change in mechanics, was it due to playing in the PCL, was it just a SSS result? I’m looking forward to finding out beginning in April.

      • His career has taken a similar track as Neal Walker’s – first round pick, languishes in the minors for a few years, etc, etc. Given his age and years in the minors, Moran is a borderline prospect. Its possible he turns into a late bloomer like Walker, but they appear to be the exceptions and not the norm. If he had a great glove at third base, that would be another thing – but it sounds like he has very limited range and is just so-so defensively. Given the Pirates repeated statements about emphasizing defense and pitching, he doesn’t seem to be a great fit in that perspective.

  15. So I don’t think Musgrove is necessarily a bad starter, but why not let him stay in the pen with the current depth we have? Having those potential three shutdown relievers, if Feliz can also pan out, is something the Rockies just guaranteed over 100 million dollars to have. That’s two big if’s for Musgrove and Feliz, but would make up for having a starter who is worse than Cole.
    – I know a starter is more inherently valuable than a reliever, but we already have a fair amount of depth to start. Why not leave a Musgrove in the bullpen, where he had an elite season? It’s not a guarantee every starter can successfully make a transition and pitch at that level.

  16. I still am in the camp that keeps McCutchen. I don’t know why the fan base would continue to support a mediocre team without marquee players. If he leaves, we better hope Josh Bell becomes a superstar. I just don’t see the Pirates getting very much for him at this point.

    • If McCutchen stays all year, we can offer him a 1-year Qualifying Offer for 2019. The salary would be around $18-19M. If he declines and signs a contract with >$50M guaranteed, we’d get a pick after the 1st round of the draft. If he declines and signs a contract with <$50M guaranteed, we'd get a pick after the 2nd round. Factors to consider when exploring trades.

    • Completely agree. Harrison has some value but Cutch does not. Not nearly the value that would be acceptable for a return for your face of the franchise. He is by far worth more to the Pirates then he will bring back in a trade. Keep him all season unless you get a good deal at deadline, offer him QO if he leaves via Free Agency then the Pirates won’t look as bad. This years deadline should be interesting again, as I expect this team to be around 500. All year with being in the wild card hunt. You will have Cutch, Mercer, Hudson as last year of contract players. Harrison, Nova, Cervelli, SRod, Freese, Kontos all will have one or two years remaining and could bring something back. Then if you wanted to get really wild hope Marte returns to form and Rivero continues his progress, then you will have two big chips who will bring you back that “Elite talent” that Cole wasn’t able to bring back.

    • Going into the offseason I was for trading Cole if we got a good package (which remains to be seen) but keeping Cutch because I don’t think what we’d get in return would be worth trading such an iconic player.

      I would try to move Harrison and Nova, though. I really like both but also like the players who would replace them.

  17. Michael Feliz had a 5.63 ERA last year but a 3.58 xFIP.
    The ERA to xFIP disparity is similar that of Joel Hanrahan and Mark Melancon when they were acquired by the Pirates. I am starting to feel a little more optimisitc.

    • before Searage even gets a hand on him, i think that 3.58 xFIP is a reasonable expectation for his ERA.

      but there’s the real chance that Searage helps him fix the walks and he becomes another Rivero.

      • But his ERA will most certainly regress closer at least to his FIP, since there’s no way he gives up a .385 BABIP again. That’s ridiculous.

          • I’d argue an expected regression resulting in middle reliever production means he’s a fine middle reliever now. If Searage finds something to improve his BB/9 and/or HR/9 (the latter may improve just by getting out of Houston), the upside is higher.

        • I’m old enough to remember when Pirates fans reactively posted xFIP-ERA metrics for Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese.

          • I was one of those guys with Niese. That was me trying to justify why they wanted him when the results were so bad. Thanks to him I pretty much completely ignore xFIP now.

            • It has its place!

              Melancon, for instance, had a track record of league-average home suppression before a sharp uptick the year prior to him being traded to the Pirates. Little appreciable change in his underlying skills – no loss of stuff or command – just a sharp rise in the number of homers he gave up. Classic case of xFIP providing valuable information.

              Hanrahan actually had zero to do with xFIP, which is simply FIP with HR/FB rate regressed to league average. Hanny actually *over*performed his homer rate. One could correctly argue that *FIP* showed the likelihood of improved performance by regressing the .431 BABIP-against he showed the year he was traded, but xFIP doesn’t add any more information to the equation.

              Niese was simply a matter of being an appreciably worse pitcher. The metrics and past performances were all based on a guy who had physically changed for the worse, and the Pirates still bet on him. He never got better, never returned to the physical quality of stuff and command the metrics were predicting, thus they were wrong.

              Feliz is a case of simply not being the type of pitcher xFIP regresses to. He works predominantly with four-seamers up in the zone, with marginal command. These lead to strikeouts when they’re located high enough, and hard contact when they miss low. He has an established track record of being an extreme fly ball pitcher that gives up an above-average number of homers precisely *because* of the type of pitcher he is.

              • I like this post NMR (Evil NMR must be out to lunch). However, I don’t think this statement passes muster: “Feliz.. is not type of pitcher xFIP regresses to”
                xFIP (and FIP) uses Home Runs allowed, Walks, Hit Batsmen and Strikeouts which are applicable to all types of pitchers.

                • Key point you’re missing is the regression part.

                  xFIP treats ever pitcher as being equally skilled in their ability to suppress home runs; actually to be more precise, xFIP believes that there *is no* skill involved in suppressing home runs. Purely luck.

                  We know this is false.

                  We know pitchers have certain traits that lead to them being outliers, and center-cut elevated fastballs are one of them.

          • Well if I had asserted that ALL pitchers that have large ERA-xFIP disparity will be great for the Pirates then you might have a point. I pointed this was the case for Hanrahan and Melancon and that was cause for optimism. Hardly any player stat comparison will ever have an all or nothing outcome.

  18. And something to dream on perhaps. What would a bullpen of Musgrove, Glasnow (assuming relief would just let him rear back and sling it) Feliz and Rivero produce? If the numbers we have read are accurate on Musgrove and Feliz, wouldn’t that give us a ‘pen that could compete with anybody?

    I did say dream on it, not saying would all work out, never does, but that is four very high end arms at the end of a game, not dissimilar to the Royals trio that won the Series. Remember, none of those guys were exactly household names prior to that season.

    Lastly, saw below, why would trading Nova be a dump? Number 3-4 starters signed for 2/$20million would seem to have great value in today’s market

    • Feliz has a 5 ERA, not sure where that fits in the bullpen. Not that it would matter because with your plan we would not have to worry about holding any late leads we will rarely have any

      • Judging a reliever on his ERA is foolish. One or two bad outings can inflate the number significantly. More importantly, Feliz’s issue is control, and Searage has had a ton of success helping lots of Pitchers throw strikes.

    • I should have read below before posting this to a recent comment. I don’t believe it, but then at least it’s objective.

      • already talked about this over at BD. He meant steamer.

        Those are their steamer projections.

        i like zips more than steamer. and i think musgrove should be a reliever. but it’s still pretty crazy to see.

          • Probably because there’s nothing yet to compare it to directly? If all we have is Steamer for Musgrove, comparing Musgrove’s Steamer projection to Cole’s ZiPS projection would be a little silly, wouldn’t it?

            I full expect Musgrove’s ZiPS projection to be considerably lower than Cole’s 3.4 ZiPS projection, but it’s not out yet, so it’s not really the point of the tweet. Musgrove and Cole had remarkably similar overall numbers last season, though Musgrove did benefit from the move to the ‘pen. Musgrove produced impressive numbers through the minors, as well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if ZiPS ended up projecting him closer to Cole than we might expect.

            • “… so it’s not really the point of the tweet.”

              Oh, I’m *very* much aware that wasn’t the point of his tweet.

              If you see nothing at all wrong with choosing one metric to make a point while ignoring another with very contradictory evidence, then that’s on you my friend!

              • The other metric doesn’t exist yet. It can’t be ignored because it’s not there to ignore. The metric we have so far says this thing, and that’s what he referenced. I don’t see how you can fairly criticize him for not including the ZiPS projection which doesn’t yet exist for Musgrove since there’s no telling how the change in methodology will actually change Musgrove’s projection. We can make a guess, but until it’s released, comparing their ZiPS projections is impossible.

                Saying, “but Cole’s ZiPS is higher at 3.4,” it itself an unfair qualifier, because the data for Musgrove isn’t available for comparison.

                  • There is complete Steamer data. The point of the tweet is to suggest that some predictive elements favor the two being overall similar pitchers. That’s a complete assessment. There could be a separate complete assessment based on ZiPS, comparing the factors ZiPS deems valuable.

                    At the core, though, I think the Steamer projections do indicate Musgrove is a more talented pitcher than he’s given credit for.

                    • Manipulated? I think Steamer’s underselling Cole, but Musgrove has real talent as a pitcher, the 86th ranked prospect in baseball when he lost his prospect status, and with an impressive track record through the minors. He’s posted fine if unspectacular peripherals in the Majors pitching most of his innings in a hitter-friendly ballpark and having to face the DH. Steamer isn’t the only data which points to Musgrove being a talented arm who simply hasn’t realized it completely as a starter in the Majors.

                      That doesn’t mean he’s going to work out as a starter, of course, but he’s not a throwaway piece, either. And if he doesn’t figure out starting, he’s already shown he can be a dominant bullpen arm, and that’s not nothing, especially in the modern environment which puts more emphasis on good bullpens.

  19. this trade is all about winning in 2018 while gaining future assets. I think McCutchen and Harrison are Pirates until at least the trade deadline.

  20. We overvalued Gerrit Cole because he was our No. 1 starter, but his actual performance is not that of a No. 1. Stuff is there, as is mentality, but results mostly haven’t, he has not progressed off his 19-8 season. And this is historical with Cole. If you look at the numbers/results, all the way back to UCLA, they have always been middle-ish.

    This is not a bad return, and since news is out that most top prospects were off the table, return better than his results. I would rather do this trade than take the chance that Cole return to 2015. Because if he hadn’t, we would have received less, perhaps much less. And had he gotten hurt, which happens occasionally to pitchers (insert sarcasm), we would have gotten next to nothing.

  21. All the people complaining about this deal need to realize, that since 2015 when Cole won 19 games, hes won a combined 19 games and his ERA in that time has gone up over 1.5 runs a game. He didn’t want to be in Pittsburgh, his agent didn’t want him here and wasn’t going to let him resign here anyway. Mentally he had checked out, and other teams knew all the above. So the talent offered reflects it.

    Is the package they received top notch? No, but the only way they would have received more is if they risked letting him start the season in Pittsburgh and hope/prayed that he recovered his 2015 stuff. Then trade him at the deadline to a team desperate for SP.

    • Your last sentence sounds like a great plan. Instead of just saying I give up tell everyone screw it and sell him to a team in the pennant race like the twins who are hungry to get to the next level. That’s what the Rays will do and have done in the past. We have complicated there plan though by devaluing assets across the league.

    • They should have kept him until the deadline then….this was a trade that comes across as the Pirates being hell bent on moving Cole during the offseason, even if they had to take a less than ideal trade.

  22. I don’t know if they need several of these guys to work out for the trade to be a success. You could have just one guy make an impact and consider the trade a success. Granted there is less chance of a major impact with this group.

    • Yes, and from a statistical perspective it’s a reasonable argument to say that one of the four has a better chance of having an impact than does any single player not ranked in the top 10-15 of all prospects (e.g., Frazier).

  23. With respect to the future, the Pirates management have a strange way of making it’s fans feel good. The Pirates are near the middle of MLB teams in revenue (2016) $265 million (19th) and within $45 million of the St. Louis Cardinals (9th).
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/193645/revenue-of-major-league-baseball-teams-in-2010/

    So any argument about revenue is bogus because year in and year out teams with less revenue compete, sign free agents and continually develop better players. When working with less revenue, they simply have to make better decisions.

    Since 2004, they’ve seen a steady increase in revenue but hit a wall last year rather than busting through it. ($109 million- $265 million) https://www.statista.com/statistics/196679/revenue-of-the-pittsburgh-pirates-since-2006/

    Yes, they did make the playoffs three years running but rather than getting better and adding a real quality player or two to the team, they actually regressed and today look like a bottom dweller.

    Unfortunately the future looks bleak with the this management team in place

    • You make an interesting point, but unfortunately exact financials are unavailable, including operating costs and debt. And the argument contrasting their revenue against that of St. Louis isn’t very good – 45 million isn’t chump change.

    • It’s Nutting. His #1 goal has been to raise the value of the franchise, and he has done a great job. The Pirates have gone from somewhere around 30th in MLB to 17nth. He’s done it with a TV deal that many folks consider to be less than optimal. He wants to win, but wins have to come under strict financial conditions. The value of the franchise is more important than winning a championship. If the Pirates are competitive, people will come to the ball park – no need to invest in a higher priced star(s) like Verlander to take them over the top.

  24. Id hold onto Cutch at this point. If they trade him they need an OF to take his place. Meadows isn’t ready. Not sure I believe in Frazier.

  25. For me going forward for Pirates should include: Trade McCutchen(return will be a lower level but higher upside player), Trade Nova(mostly a salary dump) and then trade Harrison(again a lower level but higher upside return). I would like to see Cervelli traded just to get out from under his terrible contract.

    Sign Lance Lynn to a 3 year deal from savings above
    Sign John Jay to a 2 year deal to replace McCutchen and serve as a cushion going forward for the next prospect up.

        • The problem with that train of thought is that it might be for next to nothing. If he doesn’t get a $50M deal (and he probably won’t), the Pirates are getting, pretty much, a 3rd round pick. Not really great compensation.

          • But they have him for 2018, when he may still be their best offensive player. I don’t buy the popular “2018 is a lost cause because we are in “no man’s land”” meme. Meadows isn’t ready yet. He needs a successful year in AAA to set him up for MLB success. They should keep Cutch around and let the “Dream Outfield” of Marte, Cutch and Polanco play. They may finally jell, and carry the team into the playoffs.

    • First off Lynn would never come here and we would never offer him. If we get rid of Nova and Cervelli it will be along with valuable minor leaguers. As it stands now we are in a battle with the Marlins to reduce payroll to nothing. Then NH will be tasked with trying to sell us on the idea that we should not be worried about this dump of talent and that we will spend when the time is right. Then by the middle of the season we will sell the only other asset Rivero for a bag of baseballs because a 4 million contract to us is like 20 million to someone else.

  26. I don’t think their 2018 win projection has changed. I’m not sure I agree with the “now that Cole is gone, they can’t win” opinion.

    Fangraphs had this team at 81 wins before the trade and has it at 81 wins after the trade.

    81 wins does nothing for anybody, so SOME shoe still has to drop, but it’s not like the team is suddenly awful because Cole is gone.

    I hope the plan is to increase that win number. Why waste 20 pct of the yrs of control you got back in the Cole trade on a year where you only project to win 81. *That* would be really dumb.

    • Also, keep Musgrove in the bullpen where he flashes elite. They have plenty of #4 SPs already.

      Bring back the sharktank

      • With Cole gone the remaining staff could be more amenable to a six man. Maybe a way to minimize damage from Glasnow and get a second look at Musgrove. Even if they don’t do the six they need to take advantage of license to up the creativity.

    • I’m with you. Cole has been extremely frustrating and disappointing for a couple of seasons now. He’s a maybe middle-of-the-rotation guy who should be a lot more. Unless he was heading for a bounce-back year, losing him isn’t really that much different than losing any of the other starters.

      • Yeah. I can understand how the projections see…

        “The downgrade from Cole to whatever 2 WAR pitcher they replace him with is about equal to the improvement that Moran gives 3b, and the improvement that Musgrove and Feliz give the bullpen”

      • We are so quick to downgrade our guys the moment they have a bad year. Yet we quick to welcome everyone elses trash like we just mined a nugget of gold.

    • Fangraphs has Musgrove projected to be basically as good as Cole next year. They do assume Musgrove is a starter, which is unclear. Sounds like he’ll get a shot at the rotation, not sure he’ll stick. Would be fun if Musgrove outperforms Cole that quickly.

      • he sure does have the minor league ratios to believe that. That certainly *would* be fun!

        But i’d almost rather just ride/die with Glasnow in the rotation, and then just stick with what works with Musgrove and put him in the ‘pen.

        • There might be room for Glasnow and Musgrove in the rotation. I’m pretty high on Kuhl and Williams, but they still have a lot to prove. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see them move Nova.

          • Agree, i could see Pirates moving Nova and going with a really young Starting Rotation, but i find that highly unlikely. If they were to trade Nova, I think they would continue looking at a FA Starting pitcher somewhere.

    • Agreed. He won 12 games last year and had a 4.26 ERA, pretty sure that we can sign a journeyman pitcher (John Lackey / Jamie Garcia) to accomplish those same stellar stats.

    • I will take under 81 all day long in Vegas. My thoughts on Cutch is if we cant get something decent then lets take the draft pick associated with someone else signing him next year. As for Harrison someone is going to get steal from us

  27. (Userid: EightMenOut, PP site does not allow me to change my user name and make it stick)

    Not saying this set of players in return for Cole is great, but surely the rational is easy to see, one just may not agree with it.

    1. Pirates are not in “No Man’s Land”, they are in “Wild Card Land”. With the Cubs loaded, well run, and access to a lot more money, that is not a bad strategy if you want have meaningful baseball in August/September for more than two years out of ten.

    2. Without Kang third base was turning into the pre-Josh Bell first base situation. You need to find someone who can field the position, hit for power, and not cost a fortune. Without a young controllable player, small market teams are faced looking at expensive bounce back candidates or platoons. That did not work well for the Pirates at first base.

    3. A small market team has to have a very good bullpen and it has to be cheap. It has to be very good since as a small market team you will not be able to pay a lot of stud starters to go deep into games, and you will need to win close games. And cheap because you have to have money available to put into the other positions, because that is one way to level the playing field against teams with more money.

    This trade was attempt to win the Wild Card for the next few years by adding more power at third base, and making the bullpen stronger without adding expsensive arms to it. If you don’t like Wild Card Land, then you should probably not invest a lot of fandom into the Pirates right now. Personally, I’m fine chasing the wild card year in and year out, rather than sloging through re-buildings.

    • …And if even the monster teams are girding every last prospect – what other choice is there? My hope is they try to jump on bargains this year in anticipation of shedding their vets this season or before next – not optimistic that they do anything asides from pocketing any savings. Addison Reed and Bruce have been outright steals – this bodes poorly for Cutch and JHay.

      • Means the Pirates need to start signing high end International talent and drafting for high upside players like they did in last years draft. Last years draft was great imo, all young high risk high reward players.

        • I truly believe they went after less risky college players for awhile because they felt a core was in place/close. I agree they pivoted correctly last draft. I’m hopeful the new LA coordinator has success and more leeway.

    • This a thousand times. I’d rather always be close then the rebuild/contend window every few years roller coaster.

  28. I wonder why the Pirates thought his value would drop even more. Higher chance HR/FB regress, and heard his changeup actually got better this season. He stayed healthy the whole year as well.

      • But I was talking about him staying with the Pirates till trade deadline? Just wondering why the Pirates felt like there was higher chance of Cole being average – was healthy, HR/FB rate was abnormal, changeup improved… but he was definitely not consistent.

        Also all this is based on the assumption that even if he has less control left, if he can rebound, his value would be higher than now.

          • After playing a full season without injuries, I would hope he learned how his body works and could stay healthy for few months at least. But yes, injuries, average performance, lack of consistency, etc. is all possible issues so the Pirates aren’t willing to risk it.

    • They needed a 3B man for the start of the Season. No sense going to opening day with a vacuum there, hoping to fill it at mid season.

      • I was so into the soft rebuilding idea that I didn’t even care about the holes, lol. Thought we’d just have the same lineup, try to prove Cole is worth more, then trade him at the deadline.

      • And with Moss, his time with the Pirates was basically the only time in his career he wasn’t a solid hitter.

    • While that trade didn’t pan out…scouts loved LaRoche and thought the Pirates won the 3 way deal.

      Let’s not forget that he was a 24 year old third baseman who had put up:

      2005: .305 BA, 30 HR, .926 OPS in A+/AA
      2006: .315 BA, 19 HR, .924 OPS in AA/AAA
      2007: .309 BA, 18 HR. .987 OPS in AAA (311 PA)

      FUN FACT:

      Andy LaRoche is younger than David Freese!

        • This legitimately keeps me up at night, because his first full season with the Bucs he was my favorite player on the team. A great eye, and a sweet, consistent line-drive swing. He had rotten batted ball luck that season, which kept an otherwise solid bat down at average production. His defense was excellent, though, and he actually produced roughly average overall 3B production with a 2.2 WAR.

          My guess is the rotten luck (there was an analysis somewhere which showed his xBABIP and BABIP were the farthest apart in the league) got in his head, and he started pressing and got out of what he did well. His BB% and K% only worsened slightly, but his BABIP plummeted to .253, and this time not because he was unlucky, but because he started popping up a lot and making a lot more soft contact. His swing got out of whack, and he never recovered.

          It’s a real shame. I think if he had just trusted his process, the results would have come for him. He didn’t hit many home runs, but he hit enough doubles to run a respectable if unspectacular .143 ISO. Had his BABIP and xBABIP aligned that season, he probably would have hit close to .280/.350/.420, and posted a WAR upwards of 3.0, and that would have been a nice jumping-off point for a Major League career.

          • Thanks for the thoughts. It looked to me like he started to press, got in some bad habits and couldn’t mentally get out of them. Similar to your thoughts. Athletic performance is always tied to a good confidant mental state. If the player gets disturb out of that performance goes to pot. I wish LaRoche could have found his way out. He seemed like a great guy.

        • Because prospects are often a crap shoot.

          He wasn’t really getting it done in LA, but that was attributed to adjusting to the majors…then he failed in Pittsburgh, Oakland, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, and Chicago.

          • I guess managements saw enough potential there to give him a try, but he never found enough consistency to stick.

            Or maybe he was a true AAAA player.

    • The similarity in positions make the two trades eerily similar. One thing people overlook with the Bay trade, though, is that had we stuck with Moss that trade wouldn’t be remembered quite as badly–Moss put up 7 fWAR from 2012-2014.

      • Moss had more than his share of opportunities in Pitts & with the Phillies orginization but didn’t produce.

    • Totally agree….His stuff really plays up out of the pen. Sit 93-94 as a starter, hits 97-98 in relief. I was impressed with him in the postseason. But, you damn well know they’re going to run him out there every 5 days.

      • What you hope is that he learned something in the pen that can translate to success as a starter, and not that the success was just the result of the increased velocity.

        From what I’ve read, I think of him a little bit like Williams. I’d be pretty happy if Musgrove can match Williams performance from last year.

        • Keith Law (FWIW) commented that he didn’t think Musgrove could cut it as a starter because of a lack of a quality 3rd pitch. Law quoted some numbers that showed Musgrove got crushed the 3rd time through a lineup.

    • Interestingly, the Steamer projection at Fangraphs is now projecting Musgrove for 2.7 WAR if he’s a member of the rotation (28 starts) and Cole for…2.6 WAR in 29 starts.

      I don’t believe those numbers, but they’re purely objective, stats-oriented and suggest that we made out well in the trade.

    • In today’s game, a reliever who can pitch multiple innings, pitch well in high leverage situations, get both handed batters out, and fill in as a spot starter if necessary, is more valuable than a back of the rotation SP who averages 5 IP with an ERA of 4.50.

      I personally hope they use Musgrove in this manner and give Brault a chance to pitch every 5 days.

      • I’d love to see Brault get his chance (and Kingham, too), but…man…it seems like these guys are just stuck behind pitchers of similar quality that just got the opportunity first and made the most of it.

        • Kingham was coming back from injury so that wasn’t going to happen last year.
          Brault was stuck behind, but assuming this coming year the starting staff has some injuries i’m sure both guys will get their chances.

      • The thing is, Hurdle seems a bit old-schooled when it comes to reliever usage. Perhaps Musgrove will fill in the hole left by Nicasio?

        • I think all Managers are being forced to change preconceived notions regarding reliever usage due to analytics.

          I can see Hurdle using Musgrove as a poor man’s Andrew Miller. At least I hope so.

  29. After having some time to calm down, I have to ask:

    If Cole has a season for the Astros like he did for us last year, and Moran fields adequately, hits around .260 with 20-25 bombs and Musgrove and Feliz have good seasons as relievers, will you say it is a win win?

    • If two out of the three happen I think it’s a win. Especially if one of them is Moran. The Pirates needed a 3b more than anything else. He’s LH with power potential.

      • Don’t lose sight of the fact that Jason Martin hit very well the past two years finding his power stroke. 35 doubles, 5 triples, 18 HR between A+ and AA. He may be the best of the 4 and will play all of 2018 in the minors as a 22 year old.

        Moran had a big future but guys like Bregman and Correa were drafted and he did not develop a power stroke. He may have been DFA’d by the Stro’s had they not found a taker, and this is his gigantic opportunity. Remember when clubs could not distinguish between Moran and Kris Bryant as to who should be drafted first? Appel went 1st, Bryant 2nd, and Moran 6th.

        • The Astros weren’t going to DFA Moran. They were giving him outfield reps so they could keep his bat around because they liked it.

          • Where would they find PT for him in that OF? They were also playing him at 1B, but for the Pirates, if he can become a better defensive player at 3B, I think he can be every bit as good as Kang offensively.

            Hard to say how much confidence he lost watching younger guys move ahead of him. Can he break out in Pittsburgh? He has the pedigree, and changing his swing in 2017 to get that .900+ OPS could be just the beginning – I hope so.

        • Just for fun… Clint Frazier went 5th, Austin Meadows went 9th, and Aaron Judge went 32nd in that same 2013 draft.

    • If Moran is Travis Shaw 2.0, and Cole remains the Cole of the past two years, the Pirates already have the best player in the deal. And they have him for longer. And three other assets besides. If Moran is Travis Shaw 2.0 and Cole gets back to pitching like 2015 Cole, the ‘Stros get the best player, but the Pirates have their useful asset for longer, so I think it’s a wash.

      Basically, if Moran works out, I’ll call it a good trade for the Bucs.

        • The Red Sox overpaid for Thornburg, though he was coming off a season in which he was a near-elite reliever. They sent Shaw and two decent prospects to the Brewers for him. Though Shaw was coming off a very down sophomore season, which likely depressed his value since he was a little up-and-down in the minors, too, with high-ish K% at every level to add alarm to the inconsistency. I’m guessing Moran carries more trade value at the time of this deal than Shaw did during that deal, since Moran added power and reduced strikeouts in the season prior to the deal, while Shaw’s K% rose and his overall production dropped significantly in the season before his.

          At the time, elite relievers were fetching especially high prices in trades, too. The Pirates took advantage of that in the Melancon and Watson trades, incidentally. I’m not sure the market for talented and solid but underperforming starting pitchers is even as good right now as the market for really good relievers was through this past trade deadline.

          • yea, the past couple of years, more and more teams are reluctant to part with their top tier prospects anymore. Only the teams with High payrolls are willing to do that. Yankees, Dodgers, and maybe the Cubs. Most other teams with moderate to low budgets are not trading away those blue chips prospects.

    • No. The Yanks got more for Chapman for 2 months then the Pirates got for two years for Cole. Cole has a career ERA under 3.50. He throws 100MPH has had a lot of success in his young career and he is inexpensive. We took two guys already in the league that haven’t sniff Cole at his worst and a 3B prospect that most evaluators have already written off as a bust. As for the 4th guy he is a lottery ticket that would be a sure surprise if he made an impact. Is this what one gets for a top of the rotation guy? Not at all.

    • I think you need to look more closely at Moran. Had he not fouled a pitch into his eye last year, there is a very good chance he would not have been available.

      In 14 he tore his MCL requiring surgery, and only played a partial season. This likely had an affect on his power that season.

      In 15 he broke his jaw, missing time with that injury.

      Last year, he fractured his eye socket, otherwise, he would have been Houston’s starting third baseman for their WS run.

      I personally think he will provide more value than Cole over a full season. Maybe not Cole’s 5 WAR season, but definitely the 2.5 average he has put up over his career.

      Another obscure stat, which means nothing, last year in the PCL, he had more RBI than he did strike outs.

        • I was talking more about previous seasons, he had good numbers in injury shortened seasons, even before hitting the PCL. I think he is better than what he gets credit for.

        • Does it deflate strikeouts, though? I would think he would be a bust if he did not put good numbers up in the PCL, but he did.

    • I haven’t commented on this trade for the simple reason Rosenthal gave above, to give a recent example, the Shelby miller trade, Swanson might be nothing more than an utility player and the other kid, Truisant I believe is spelled has a slim chance of being more than a bullpen piece. What I’m trying to say is something we all know but forget, prospects are not guaranteed, look a Glasnow ranked in the top ten off all of baseball. But passed by Kuhl and Williams who never came close to being nationally ranked.

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