MLB Hot Stove: Astros acquire Pirates ace Gerrit Cole
The World Series champions make a big winter move to bolster starting pitching
The Houston Astros added another big name to their collection on Saturday, acquiring right-handed starter Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four players: third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jason Martin, and pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, the teams confirmed.
Cole, 27, made 127 starts over parts of five seasons with the Pirates. Over that time, he accumulated a 3.50 ERA (112 ERA+) and 3.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His best season came in 2015, when he made the All-Star Game and finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting. Times haven't been as sweet recently. His ERA+ has dropped in each of the last two years, and he allowed a career-worst 1.4 home runs per nine innings in 2017.
Cole has had the reputation for having better stuff than results dating back to his collegiate days at UCLA. He throws a 96 mph fastball in addition to a hard slider, a curveball, and a changeup -- each of which generated whiffs on at least 20 percent of the swings taken against them last season.
Cole has two years of team control remaining. He's set to become a free agent after 2019. He should help cover the Astros' hole if they decide to let Dallas Keuchel walk after the season.
In exchange for Cole, the Pirates receive four players, each of whom could appear in the majors in 2018.
Musgrove and Feliz have already exhausted their prospect eligibility. Musgrove is 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. He could develop into a fifth starter due to his pitchability and polish. In 49 big-league appearances he's posted a 4.52 ERA and 3.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Feliz has fared worse, racking up a 5.13 ERA (albeit with a 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio) in 98 appearances. The raw stuff is there for Feliz to become an impact reliever, provided the Pirates give up on trying to teach him the command and changeup he lacks to start.
Moran was ranked fifth in the Astros system, per MLB.com. He combines an above-average hit tool with substandard power from third base. There's legitimate concern about his viability at the hot corner, and he could in time have to move to another corner position. Martin, meanwhile, checks in at 15th. He has the potential for three average or better tools, including his hit, run, and glove.
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