Sources have told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that the Astros are likely to pursue a starter and a left-handed reliever before the trade deadline and that Pirates ace Gerrit Cole and lefty Tony Watson are pitchers who “intrigue” the club.
The Astros are the second club that Cole has been rumored to be a possible fit for, joining the Yankees after sources told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that the Pirates could make their right-handed starter available for trade. The Astros have the best record in the Major Leagues at 29-12, while the Yankees have the second-best record in the AL at 23-13.
Cole is also the second starter that the Astros have been interested in acquiring, as they had talked about trading for the White Sox Jose Quintana. Cole is 1-4 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in eight starts this season for Pittsburgh, which is currently in last place in the NL Central, while Quintana is 2-5 with a 4.38 ERA in eight starts for Chicago.
If they acquire Cole, the Astros will team him up with left-hander and 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and righty Lance McCullers, making them a dangerous big three in the postseason. In addition, they would retain Cole through the 2019 season since he still has two years left on his contract.
Rosenthal says the Astros do have the pieces to make a move for Cole, as they entered the year with the third-best farm system in the bigs. But, the Pirates have not officially talked about being sellers at this point, even though their season seems to be almost lost after All-Star outfielder Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for performance-enhancing drugs, pitcher Jameson Taillon had to have surgery for suspicion of testicular cancer and All-Star Andrew McCutchen is hitting a dismal .206.
As for Watson, the Astros’ need for him would “lessen” if their lone southpaw reliever, Tony Sipp, bounces back from early season struggles.