Things going nowhere with the best starting pitchers on the free-agent market? Why not make a trade?
The Cubs - connected all offseason to free-agent starters Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb - might be looking to improve their rotation in some other fashion, as according to a report they've talked with the division-rival Pittsburgh Pirates about superstar hurler Gerrit Cole.
cubs are a third team that's talked about gerrit cole lately. yanks and astros have more prospects, which may give them an edge. but pirates wouldn't mind getting MLB players back, too.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 12, 2018
Now that would be some kind of blockbuster.
Cole, a 27-year-old right-hander, is under control for two more seasons and would be quite the addition to a starting rotation that already features Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and the recently signed Tyler Chatwood. Arrieta's departure to free agency means the Cubs have a big hole to fill on that starting staff, and boy would Cole fill it.
Cole's pitched five major league seasons in Pittsburgh, owning a 3.50 career ERA. He's coming off a less-than-fantastic 2017 in which he turned in a career-high 4.26 ERA in a National League best 33 starts, but he also racked up 196 strikeouts, the second highest total of his career. His 203 innings of work were just five off his career high.
He's just two years removed from a sensational 2015, in which his 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts put him fourth in NL Cy Young voting and sent him to his lone All-Star appearance.
Of course, the likelihood of acquiring Cole might not be as high as Twitter users would like.
The Houston Astros and New York Yankees are also said to be talking with the Pirates about Cole, and as Heyman noted, both teams have farm systems better than the Cubs', loaded with talent that could speed along a rebuilding effort in Pittsburgh. The Pirates also would figure to be wary about trading Cole to a division rival.
The Cubs, though, have seen some of their young position players mentioned in trade speculation regularly this winter. If the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ or even Javy Baez be enough to land Cole? Would the Cubs even want to go down that road with a division rival?
It's just the typical hot-stove chatter for now. But the Cubs' pursuit of a top-of-the-line starting pitcher continues.