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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.