The methodical chess game that has been the MLB offseason saw its first game-changing move in weeks on Saturday.
The Houston Astros, fresh off their first World Series championship in franchise history, acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole in a huge four-for-one deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Perhaps just as importantly, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow prevented Pittsburgh from revisiting trade talks with the New York Yankees, who until this week looked like strong contenders to acquire Cole.
Yahoo Sports Tim Brown was the first to report the deal, which will see pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, along with third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin, going back to Pittsburgh.
It’s a relatively small price to pay for a deal that allows Houston to effectively kill two birds with one stone. In fact, it’s a far less impressive haul than what Pittsburgh had reportedly asked from the Yankees in trade talks surrounding Cole. That might indicate the Yankees were never willing to go all-in on Cole. Regardless, it felt like an important deal for Houston to make simply to counter what New York has already done.
It might be difficult to believe a team with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer in the every day lineup, to go along with a starting rotation that already featured Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr., might have to play catch up in the talent department. But that’s where the Astros were after the Yankees went big to acquire Giancarlo Stanton.
Remember, these two teams played a classic seven-game series in the ALCS. Not a lot separated them then. Not a lot separated them even six weeks ago. When the Stanton trade went down though, the needle moved in New York’s favor. Now that needle is back much closer to where it was when these teams were trading wins in October.
Cole helps the Astros in a lot of ways. His presence on the Astros hurts the Yankees in just as many. Especially if those teams meet again in the postseason. The Yankees lineup is going to be impossible for many pitching needy teams to navigate. Health permitting, the Astros won’t have those problems. Manager A.J. Hinch will be able to throw aces on the hill relentlessly in a short series, which is a luxury he didn’t have in October.
The Yankees rotation is pretty good too. Most would say they don’t need to add a major piece to a rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia already in place. With that in mind, general manager Brian Cashman refusing to part with key prospects to acquire Cole wasn’t really the wrong move. The Yankees didn’t necessarily need Gerrit Cole, but they certainly needed him to go somewhere, anywhere, other than Houston.
Gerrit Cole going to Houston was the Yankees worst-case scenario and that alone makes them the biggest losers of this trade.
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