There were earlier rumors connecting the Yankees to Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, but it seems like the talks have advanced to the point where the teams might be exchanging names.
According to George King III, the two teams are discussing a trade involving Cole, and one of the players going back to the Pirates could be outfielder, and former top 50ish prospect, Clint Frazier. The Pirates are also thought to be looking for pitching, and King mentions Chance Adams, one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects.
If the Pirates are serious about dealing Cole, who is two years away from free agency, and if they land Frazier in the deal, there’s a very good chance they’ll quickly move to trade Andrew McCutchen, too, before he reaches free agency after the 2018 season. And if that happens, the Pirates suddenly look a lot less like an NL Central contender, and a lot more like a short-term rebuilding club. From there, they could also move Josh Harrison, Ivan Nova, David Freese, Francisco Cervelli, and Daniel Hudson, among others, if they really wanted to tear things down.
Thanks to unbalanced schedules, having a couple rebuilding clubs in your divisions can be a disproportionate benefit in the Wild Card race, making it slightly easier to reach the postseason relative to competitive clubs in divisions with fewer rebuilding teams. So, all else equal, you’d be fine with seeing the Pirates sell off.
There’s also the fact that, if the Yankees land Cole, they won’t likely be competing against the Cubs for other available starting pitchers on both the trade and free agent market. And if a starter like Alex Cobb really wants $20M annually, that might very good news. Additionally, because Cole isn’t a realistic option for the Cubs (same division and all), this would fulfill a potential trade competitors’ needs without removing an option from the Cubs’ board.
To be sure, it’s not Cole or bust for the Yankees, as King reports that they’ve also inquired about the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin, among others. But the Pirates are motivated sellers and a potential return may have already leaked out (which, if true, means these talks could be pretty advanced). And finally, the fact that a central part of the return, Clint Frazier, actually makes a fair amount of sense for both the Yankees (positional redundancy) and Pirates (young, cost-controlled, talented, ready now) just makes it all the more likely.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.