Astros Complete Long-Awaited Trade For Cole
After weeks of speculation and discussions, the Astros and Pirates finally came to an agreement on the long-rumored trade of Gerrit Cole on Saturday night.
The Astros acquired Cole in exchange for righthander Joe Musgrove, third baseman Colin Moran, righthanded reliever Michael Feliz and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. The Pirates largely got major league talent in return for their ace rather than high-upside, high-risk wild card prospects. Musgrove and Moran are both 25 and have been in the majors the last two years, while Feliz is 24 and has made at least 45 appearances out of the Astros bullpen the last two seasons. Martin, who is a product of the same high school as Cole, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, finished last year at Double-A.
Cole, meanwhile, fortifies the rotation of the defending World Series champs and gives them a fearsome trio at the top with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.
Astros acquire: Gerrit Cole, RHP (MLB) Age: 27
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft appeared to break through when he finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting in 2014, but he hasn’t been able to repeat that level of success, settling into a solid but not spectacular starting rotation member. To that end, he went 12-12, 4.26 for the Pirates in 2017, posting above-average strikeout (8.7) and walk (2.4) rates but also a below-average home run rate (1.4). Importantly, he made 33 starts and held up for 203 innings after going on the disabled list three times in 2016. Cole gives the Astros a durable, above-average righthander to slot in behind Verlander and Keuchel at worst. At best, he gives them a third Cy Young caliber-ace and a rotation few teams can match.
Pirates acquire: Joe Musgrove, RHP (MLB) Age: 25
Musgrove began 2017 in the Astros' rotation and ran up a 6.12 ERA in 15 starts before moving to the bullpen, where he delivered a 1.44 ERA in 23 appearances. Musgrove throws strikes and has solid stuff but nothing spectacular and no real out pitch, which has resulted in more than a hit allowed per inning in his career and trouble when he has to maneuver through an order multiple times. For example, opponents hit .361/.437/.639 against him the third time through the order in 2017. Musgrove started his entire career before this year, and has a chance to regain his footing as a starter in his new organization.
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Colin Moran, 3B (Triple-A) Age: 25
The sixth overall pick in 2013 draft, Moran has had a largely up-and-down career in the minors. He had an “up” year in 2017 after taking to the Astros' approach of increasing launch angle, hitting .308 with 18 homers, 63 RBIs and a .916 OPS at Triple-A Fresno and seeing time in the majors for the second straight year. Moran is still prospect-eligible and was set to rank No. 9 in the Astros system, but is ready for an extended big league audition after spending the last two years at Triple-A. Incumbent Pirates third baseman David Freese is signed through 2018 and has a team option in 2019. Moran, with strong strike-zone recognition, an overhauled swing that unlocked more power and solid hands and an accurate arm at third base, is in line to be Freese’s eventual replacement.
Michael Feliz, RHP (MLB) Age: 24
Feliz is a power righthander who has trouble controlling his stuff. He averages 97 mph on his fastball and mixes in a mid-80s swing-and-miss slider, resulting in high strikeout totals every year. His problem is subpar control, which resulted a 4.1 BB/9 rate last year with the Astros and seven wild pitches in just 48 innings. As a result, he posted a 5.63 ERA and was left off the Astros' postseason roster. Feliz has the swing-and-miss stuff for the end of games, and the Pirates will try and solve the control problems to help him get there. Even if they can’t, he still fits into their Opening Day bullpen.
Jason Martin, OF (Double-A) Age: 22
Martin, an eighth-round pick in 2013, hit .278/.332/.487 with 35 doubles, 18 homers, 66 RBIs and 16 stolen bases between high Class A Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi in 2017. Despite the big numbers, the Astros left him exposed in the Rule 5 draft and no club picked him. The main reason is outside evaluators largely see Martin as a fifth outfielder due to what they perceive to be not enough speed to handle center field as a fringy-to-average runner and not enough power for a corner. Martin has some athleticism and continues to perform at every level, with some noting underrated strength in particular. He will try to carry his production forward to his new organization, likely beginning 2018 at Double-A Altoona.