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$1 Gerrit Cole Traded To Astros For Four Scratched Quarters

Neal Huntington turned Gerrit Cole into four players, three of which will be on the 2018 roster. Clockwise from Top Left — RHP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, OF Jason Martin, RHP Michael Feliz
Photo Credit — Musgrove (John Bazemore, AP), Moran (Logan Bowles, USAToday Sports), Martin (, Feliz (Rick Yeatts, Houston Chronicle)

Let me put this out there loud and clear, right from the start.  I didn’t think the Pirates should have traded Gerrit Cole (or any key player for that matter) heading into this 2018 season.  I wanted to add some bench and bullpen guys, make a run at it, then re-evaluate in July.

On Saturday night, though, the Pirates and Astros slow danced for the second time this week, but this time the deal was consumated.  Man, this analogy got super weird, real quick.

By getting back RHP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Michael Feliz, and outfield prospect Jason Martin, this deal tells me a few things about this upcoming Pirate season:

  • They’re going to try and be competitive and not totally rebuild.  Yea!  That’s good.  Right?
  • There’s no more money for the payroll.  It’s as if a $50M check from the BAMTech sale isn’t coming 1Q or something.  Or that they’re still going to have a $100M payroll off of $250M of revenue.

It’s great that Neal Huntington is going to make an effort to be competitive and strive for a Wild Card in 2018.  The problem is that he just used his best trade asset during his tenure as Pirates GM to cover three holes on the roster with low upside players.

Gerrit Cole is a polarizing player, both among Pirate fans and fans of other teams.  My thoughts on him are pretty well laid out by this point.  Now, Cole is going from a Pirates team where he was the 2nd most important player for success to an Astros team where he’s maybe the 6th or 7th most important player for their success.

Cole doesn’t have to be the main guy in the rotation anymore.  He can learn from two Cy Young winners in Keuchel and Verlander and relax when he pitches.  I think he’s going to thrive and this trade is going to be scrutinized, as a result.

The part that’s more than a little alarming is that Huntington either felt, or was explicitly told, that there was no money for upgrades.  Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran will all be on the Pirates this year and all three will be making at or near league minimum of $550,000.  The trade could work if you put all three of them through The Hope Machine, of course.

Joe Musgrove

The 25-year old Musgrove will probably have the inside track to take Cole’s spot in the rotation over Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault.  He’s a cromulent #5 starter that has five years of team control remaining.

If you believe in two things, you could talk yourself into liking this component of the trade.  The Pirates have had some great success recently with taking AL pitchers into the NL (Ivan Nova and J.A. Happ).  Also, it appears that even though Musgrove’s stuff is relatively average, his slider appears to be his best pitch (+1.72 runs/100 pitches in 2017).  Alex wrote recently about the need for the Pirates to throw more sliders, so there may be something there.

Michael Feliz

There’s probably going to be a follow up article this week on Feliz, specifically, but for now let me just say that he’s the only part of the deal I’m moderately intrigued by.

Feliz came up as a top prospect with some esteem through the Astros’ system.  Converted to a reliever full-time in the Majors, he’s had mixed results.  On the one hand, his strikeout rates are gaudy, due in part to his blazing 96-mph fastball.  But unfortunately, he’s been prone to the long balls to an alarming degree (1.50 HR/9 in 2017, 1.49 HR/9 for his career) and his control is not the best.

If this sounds vaguely like Felipe Rivero and you think that the Searage Effect still exists, this could turn out to be the best part of the deal.  This season is Feliz’s age-25 season and there are four years of team control.  Feliz, if harnessed properly, could be the setup man to Rivero.  That would keep George Kontos and Daniel Hudson in the 7th inning and allow Doydas Neverauskas to adjust to the Majors in a lower-impact role.

Colin Moran

I don’t like Colin Moran, as a player.  There. I said it.  And I feel better for having done so.

I hope he proves me wrong.  I hope that his 2017 season in the minors, where he finally hit for power befitting a 3B, was the breakout season of his career.  Maybe he took advantage of the altered swing path revolution to get more loft on the ball.  I’m just very skeptical of a player that used to have isolated slugging rates in the .110 range jumping up to .235 all of a sudden.

Until he proves me otherwise, I’m still thinking that Moran is a low power/good average option at 3B.  He’s a plodding runner with a thick lower half, so I’m not even sure he’s a 3B long-term.  He comes with a full six years of team control, but I’ll be shocked if he’s around for all of it, as he has ‘non-tender’ written all over him.

And although it probably goes without saying at this point, this all but certifies the fact that Jung-ho Kang will never suit up for the Pirates again.


I’ll touch on the fourth piece of the trade, Jason Martin, for a second.  I put him through our new SSL tool for his 2017 season that was split between High A in the Carolina League and Double A in the Texas League.  Once you do a quick weighted average for having spent twice as much time in Double A, he comes out to a 45.  That’s a bench/4th OF type.

As a point of reference, Martin was Rule 5 eligible and no one took him in December at the Rule 5 draft, which says something.  He’s not someone that I anticipate much out of, in terms of impact.


Gerrit Cole has two years remaining at below-market rates.  Even if you aren’t high on him and think he’s a #3, that’s still worth $24M of value.  He had probably $35-40M of surplus value, depending on how you run the numbers and what you rate him as.

Rather than use him to re-build and get high-impact future talent, Neal Huntington chose to use his best trade chip to do a Cover-All on his 2018 Offseason Bingo card.  In the event that this gambit of competition doesn’t work out, there are no building blocks for the next great Pirate squad in this trade.  There’s no Forrest Whitley (a long shot to get from the Astros), Kyle Tucker (a possibility, but a stretch) or even a Derek Fisher (quite realistic).

When the Pirates do inevitably embark on their rebuild, the timeline is going to be longer because of this trade’s inability to procure impact talent.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

20 Comments on $1 Gerrit Cole Traded To Astros For Four Scratched Quarters

  1. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad. It’s like Kramerica Industries. It all sounds pretty glamorous, but it’s business as usual at Federal Street.

  2. Nothing like passing on quality for average at best quantity.

  3. Bernard Quarrick // January 15, 2018 at 1:36 PM //

    “I’ll take what’s in the mystery box,” said Neal Huntington.

  4. Daquido Bazzini // January 15, 2018 at 1:54 PM //

    Nothing comes before saving the almighty dollar bill for the Nutting Regime. This is just the latest proof.
    All the hype about Gerrit Cole when he was drafted as the 1st pick in the draft….And he’s already gone for four guys that are cheaper and “might” work out to a certain extent.

  5. I find it interesting that commenters knocked Cole throughout the year, but thought he should bring back top prospects in a trade. I compared the minor league results of Moran and Frazier , who supposedly was being offered by the Yankees, and Moran batted 20 points higher, had slightly fewer home runs but more RBIs. Neither guy is that good a fielder or baserunner. Unless you think that Huntington failed to contact all the other teams in baseball, he got what he could get. Who knows if it would have been more at the deadline or at this time next year.

    • Bob Stover // January 16, 2018 at 1:07 PM //

      Exactly So Norm. The guys on here all think they could do better than N.H. or that the only constraints on the Pirates are budgetary. The fact is that they got 2 or 3 players that are major league ready to one degree or another and they don’t have that many on the entire Indianapolis roster. The Cole trades is not a blockbuster, but it certainly was not a give away the store trade either.

    • Norm….if that was indeed the market for Cole than they should not have traded him at that time, if at all. But it is all beside the point. A good organization realizes that it can still compete with Cole and Cutch by bringing in additional pieces to compliment them. They are not going to get back to the 2013-2015 winning seasons with what they got back here, so the argument that they had to do something because they would not get anything in return if they just let Cole and Cutch walk simply doesn’t fly. They simply did not want to spend the money, as always, to complete.

      • Bob Stover // January 17, 2018 at 10:12 AM //

        My argument is that they had two sub .500 seasons in a row with them, and can have two more without them, but still be building something better for 2019 and 2020 and beyond. A small market team cannot afford to decide to just keep guys and let them walk for nothing. If the guys they draft or prospects acquired from other organizations are not flipped before they can walk, you will soon have a minor league system totally bereft of major league prospects. One of the factors that compelled the trades, in addition to money and control were the poor drafts of the last 3 or 4 years with respect to position players. In the two trades that they have made, they have obtained three position player prospects that will help overcome that failure to draft well. That’s just how it works when you’re a small market team.

        In addition, the Pirates got $500k in international pool money from the Giants. They had traded away that amount last year and now they have it back. That may well be important in just who the Pirates can sign in the international phase of the draft or in signing international free agents.

        • Oh yeah, the Friends of Bob “small market” lament/excuse again. Over and over like a broken record, while many other small market teams continue to spend to mlb league average.

          There simply is nothing that says you must trade a top player if you do not get fair value in return, even if he is in his walk year (the team is generally compensated with a compensatory draft pick if they want/need to hold on to such a player). In Cole’s case, he still had 2 more years left before FA. The Pirates, in desperation, sold low in order to dump salary. A good organization extends it’s window by building around such players before they can hit the open market. Something the Pirates still had a chance to do this offseason. I knew they wouldn’t do so because Nutting is the owner.

          But you are on record as recently as today as stating that you expect free agent signings soon so that “the Pirates don’t tank”. What kind of FA signing do you expect them to make to avoid tanking, now that they got rid of their best player, and their best pitcher..and coming off 2 abysmal under .500 seasons? I mean, if you think they can just sign a couple 3rd tier free agents and then is all well in Pirateland, then there simply is no hope at all for you.

  6. Baseball Bernie // January 15, 2018 at 5:17 PM //

    Andrew McCutchen reportedly has been traded to the Giants. No details yet on the return, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be Madison Bumgarner.

  7. I’m curious if you ran Moram though the new ssl tool

    • Kevin Creagh // January 16, 2018 at 9:41 AM //

      Yeah, someone asked on the SSL article about Moran. Here was my response:
      If you go by just Moran’s 2017, he’s a 55, indicating a well-above average regular (60 is All-Star, typically). That’s if you buy into his power surge after lacking in it his whole career.
      If you look at Moran’s 2016, he’s a 40, which is a guy that gets a cup of coffee. He’s probably a 45 bench player overall for me.

  8. Kevin Strafalace // January 16, 2018 at 6:15 PM //

    Maybe we don’t get a better package now. Then u wait till the deadline when prices go up due to competition & injuries. Even if nobody blows u away at the deadline I’m pretty sure NH coulda got a similar package at least. But just like the bay trade we got nothing for our biggest chip. If it’s so hard to get prospects back y didn’t we take reynaldo Lopez (top 50) for cutch last deadline? Instead NH demanded Victor Robles & wouldn’t budge. It’ll take at least 10 yrs to rebuild thru the draft bc we didn’t watch how hou, chi, nyy, etc went about their rebuilds. We need a new gm that knows how to trade.

    • Bob Stover // January 17, 2018 at 10:05 AM //

      Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche are not nothing. Andy LaRoche gave the Pirates 2 or 3 years of solid contribution. The Pirates traded Brandon Moss away and he’s had a useful career. A fair-to-middling reliever in Bryan Morris was included in that trade. He had a couple of better than average years with the Pirates out of the pen before he was traded to Miami.

      That the Pirates didn’t keep him does not negate his value as part of the Jason Bay trade. In reality, Jason Bay never lived up to his one season of greatness in Pittsburgh and the BoSox were the ones that got hosed in that deal. Add to that the BoSox traded Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers thinking that Bay was going to take his place for 10 years or so and I’d say that the Pirates were definitely the winners of that particular trade.

  9. The headline implying that we got equal value is quite flawed. $1 equals 4 quarters whether scratched or not. More correctly, we gave away $1 for 4 scratched dimes. We simply did not get fair value for Cole. He was their #1 trade chip and a stud pitcher, coming off his worst season. No question he will rebound. No question he is a #1 or #2 starter on just about any rotation. Such a pitcher on the market demands elite prospect(s) in return. NH got fleeced because he felt he had to trade Cole. Other teams smell desperation.

    • Kevin Strafalace // January 16, 2018 at 6:35 PM //

      Maybe not a #1 On any rotation but def a solid #2 or an elite #3 On 1 of these super teams. He is a comparable talent to jose Quintana who was dealt for the cubs #1 & #2 prospects (in a loaded farm system). Even if Quintana had more yrs of control how does Cole not at least net 1 of their top 3 prospects? Alot of good all these RPs r gonna do us when we’re losing 100 games again. Now we’re gonna have to lose for at least 5 yrs to draft the talent needed & another 3-5 for it to get to the mlb. And that’s if NH actually drafts good!!! They may as well trade bell while he’s cheap bc he won’t b around to see the next winning team. Maybe NH can get 1 top prospect for him

      • Bob Stover // January 17, 2018 at 10:29 AM //

        The Quintana trade has nothing to do with the Cole trade. He was signed last year when starting pitching was tough to get. This is this year and there are quality pitchers available as free agents that won’t cost a team any prospects to sign. Next year will be the bumper crop of all bumper crops with respect to free agent talent. FA starting pitchers still available include Arrieta, Sanchez, Lackey, Hellickson, Garza, Jimenez, Tillman, Cashner, Vargas, Lynn, Santiago, Buchholz, Garcia, Miley, Wood, Cobb, Latos and Kendrick. Some of them are available for less than Cole will be getting. The ones that will get more, and perhaps a lot more, will not cost anything in prospects.

    • Bob Stover // January 17, 2018 at 10:18 AM //

      Cole will be a #3 in Houston, will he not? It says everywhere that I have read that he will slot in behind Dallas Kuechel and Justin Verlander. The fact that he was the #1 guy in Pittsburgh and a stud does not mean that he is a #1 everywhere in MLB. It seems to me that just like N.H. you are perhaps overvaluing a player. N.H. never came close to prying any of the untouchable prospects away from the Yankees or Astros in the trade for Cole. Your sloppy analysis totally ignores that there is a free agent market out there glutted with folks that can be signed to fill a #3 starter position, and it wouldn’t cost the signing team any prospects. Spending money is easy for teams like the Yankees and Astros; replacing blue chip prospects is not.

    • I said he’d be a #1 or #2 on “just about any rotation”. Can you even read? He could easily end the year in Houston as #2 or even #1. He is that good. He had a down year last year and Houston exploited the Pirates desperation to sell low.

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