Cole fire: Astros heat up hot stove with deal for Pirates ace

Associated Press

HOUSTON

The Houston Astros already had two Cy Young winners on their staff. They’re hoping Gerrit Cole can make it three.

The World Series champions boosted their rotation with another big arm, acquiring Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a five-player trade Saturday.

The Pirates got right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin for their 27-year-old ace.

Cole will join All-Stars Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander on a team that just won its first crown. Houston breezed to the AL West title with 101 wins, and went on beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series.

Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA last season, by far the worst ERA of his five-year career. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft was an All-Star in 2015 but hasn’t replicated those results the past two seasons.

The New York Yankees had been among the teams mentioned in trade talks involving Cole. There hadn’t been a lot of movement this winter on baseball’s hot stove, but this deal could get things cooking. Luhnow said Houston first spoke to Pittsburgh about Cole last July, and the teams have been hammering out this package since the winter meetings.

Chris Archer, Michael Fulmer, Matt Harvey and other prominent starters have had their names tossed around in recent swap speculation.

Cole tied for the NL lead with 33 starts, was third in innings (203) and 10th in strikeouts (196). He is 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in five major league seasons, including 19-8 in 2015.

On Friday, Cole and the Pirates reached agreement on a one-year contract worth $6.75 million. He had one year of arbitration remaining and was likely to command a huge raise in 2019, one of the reasons the Pirates had considered trading him.

“Trading Gerrit Cole was not an easy decision. We are very appreciative for what Gerrit has done for our team and organization, especially his important role on the 2013-15 playoff teams,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.

The Pirates have slumped badly since those three straight postseason appearances. They dipped to 78-83 in 2016, then slid to 75-87 last year.

Musgrove could take over Cole’s spot in the rotation. The 25-year-old has made 25 starts and 49 appearances with Houston over the past two seasons. He’s 11-12 with a 4.77 ERA in that time, but finished out 2017 by posting a 1.44 ERA over 311/3 innings of relief.

Moran is the nephew of former major leaguer B.J. Surhoff and could become a similar type of hitter, with high batting averages but only some power from the left side. The 25-year-old is a career .290 hitter in the minor leagues since Miami selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft.

Feliz is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who struck out 13.13 batters per nine innings in 46 appearances last season. Despite that, he had a 5.63 ERA in part because of subpar control.

Martin is a left-handed hitting outfielder selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. The 22-year-old batted .278 with 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases last season split between Class A Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi.

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