Executives and scouts around the league still believe that the Yankees and the Pirates will complete a deal that will bring Gerrit Cole to the Yankees for Opening Day. The belief of those in baseball is that Cashman will only make the trade on his terms, which likely means Clint Frazier and one of his pitching prospects, like Chance Adams; however, the Pirates have asked for three top prospects, which has turned out to be more than Cashman is willing to trade for Cole. Thus, the standstill in trade talks to date, but, if, as a rival executive has suggested, “The Yankees have the pieces and Pittsburgh need to tear it down,” they’ll find common ground. This scenario is seeming more and more likely after the botched reports of Cole being traded to Houston.
Often thought of as the one that got away, Cole was originally drafted in the first round by the Yankees out of high school in the 2008 draft, but elected to play college ball at UCLA and was later drafted first overall by the Pirates in 2011. He’s 27 and still two years away from free agency, which means he’s perfect for a team whose window is wide open this season.
Cole is a power pitcher who features a four-seam and two-seam fastball that he regularly throws between 94 to 98 miles per hour, but has been clocked as high as 102 miles per hour on the gun. He also features a slider and a change-up to keep hitters off balance.
Prior to the 2013 season, Cole was considered the ninth best prospect in baseball. He debuted with the Pirates in June 2013. From 2012, his first year in the minors through 2016 with the Pirates, Cole had a 3.23 ERA (118 ERA+) in 579 1/3 innings and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting in 2015.
Cole, 27, owns a 3.50 ERA across 127 starts in his career. In 2017, in 33 starts, 203 innings, he posted a 12-12 record with a 4.26 ERA and 196 strikeouts. He has been durable for the Pirates and was one of just 15 big league starters to log at least 200 innings pitched while being one of only 12 to make at least 33 starts. Cole worked 203 innings, which would have led the Yankees 2017 staff. Luis Severino led the Yankees last season with 193 1/3.
So why the drop-off in numbers in 2017? A scout speculated about the disparity in Cole’s 2017 numbers as compared to his career numbers:
“I think he got frustrated last year and got too fastball happy. He’s got a good slider and at times his change-up is a plus pitch. I would bet the Yankees have analytics telling them they can [get] a lot of improvement out by having Cole throw his secondary stuff more.”
Another glaring problem for Cole in 2017 was that he gave up a career high 31 home runs, which scouts largely attribute to mistake fastballs. A stat like this can make the Yankees weary on bringing him to a hitters ballpark.
Cole has been variously described by scouts as “good but not great, solid but not spectacular, ” and also as a guy who “has top of the rotation stuff” that will propel the Yankees into the World Series. John Edwards of the Sporting News has said that in 2017, Cole posted some of the best contact numbers of his career, inducing soft contact on 24 percent of his batted balls, which was a career best. Despite the home run numbers, Edwards notes, “Cole’s excellent contact management and superb control mean that he would be a valuable addition to any rotation…”
If Yankee fans see Cole in pinstripes come Spring Training, they will be seeing a top of the rotation guy, not elite, who eats innings, is durable and posts a winning record in support of a championship run this season.
-Chris Northrop (@ringoangel653)
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