MLB Winter Meetings rumors: Yankees interested in Cole, Pirates ready to listen

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a difficult spot right now. They went 75-87 in 2017 and franchise player Andrew McCutchen will be a free agent next offseason, meaning they might soon be forced into a rebuild. Do they try to make one last run with McCutchen in 2018 or step back and begin that rebuild now?

If nothing else, the Pirates are at least staying open to moving some of their core players this winter. They're reportedly willing to listen to offers for staff ace Gerrit Cole, and the New York Yankees are said to be interested in bringing him to the Bronx.

The Yankees drafted Cole out of high school with their first round pick in 2008, but he decided not to sign and instead followed through on his commitment to UCLA. Three years later, the Pirates selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Cole and Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer are said to remain in touch.

To state the obvious, many teams would love to get their hands on Cole, who turned only 27 in September and can not become a free agent until after the 2019 season. He threw 203 innings with a 4.26 ERA (101 ERA+) and 196 strikeouts in 2017, making it his worst MLB season to date, though Cole had a 3.23 ERA (118 ERA+) in 579 1/3 innings from 2012-16. That's who teams hope they would be getting.

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The Pirates are listening to offers for Gerrit Cole. USATSI

Given his age and track record, and the fact he will be affordable from 2018-19 -- MLB Trade Rumors projects Cole to earn $7.5 million in 2018 -- the Pirates should be able to get a real nice haul for Cole. The Athletics fetched three recent top 100 prospects (Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian) for two years and two months of Sonny Gray at this year's trade deadline, which could serve as a trade benchmark.

Keep in mind Pirates GM Neal Huntington and his staff wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't at least listen to offers for Cole, or any other player on their roster for that matter. It never hurts to listen. You never know when a team might blow you away, which is pretty much exactly what happened with the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Sometimes a trade that is too good to pass up falls into your lap.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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