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Pirates, Astros not close to Gerrit Cole trade

The right-hander would join Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander at the top of a stacked rotation for Houston if a trade was consummated.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Houston is not on the verge of acquiring Cole, with Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reporting that it’s a “false rumor”:

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow went on the record to state that the team is not close to any acquisition, so it surely appears that the deal with Pittsburgh is not as close as was originally thought.

ORIGINAL: The Astros are close to acquiring right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, according to a report from Jon Morosi of Though the return isn’t known, reports have indicated that outfielder Derek Fisher has been involved in talks between the clubs.

While reports have surfaced that the sides agreed to a deal, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan cautions that it’s not quite complete yet. Cole has not yet been notified of a trade, though it appears very likely to be consummated soon.

Houston only recently was reported to be a serious suitor for Cole, one of the top starters available on the trade market this winter. Dating back to last month’s winter meetings, the Yankees were thought to be the favorite to acquire Cole, so Houston swooping in to snag him comes as at least a bit of an upset.

Cole, 27, will join Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton in a stacked Astros rotation. Cole is under control through the 2019 season, giving Houston two years of control and guaranteeing a key rotation piece for 2019 after Keuchel and Morton hit free agency next winter.

Cole had the worst year of his career with the Pirates in 2017, posting a 4.26 ERA and 4.08 FIP in 33 starts. The first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole has been with Pittsburgh for five major-league seasons, owning a career 3.50 ERA and 8.4 K/9 in 127 starts in that span.

For Pittsburgh, the trade of Cole likely signals the team is about to embark on a rebuild that could also see key position players Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison to be dealt as well. The Pirates are not expected to contend in a strong NL Central next season and have been considering a re-start for the better part of a year.