It took a few days, but the deal is done. As first reported by Yahoo’s Tim Brown, the Astros have acquired Pirates starter Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin:
Hearing Pirates and Astros have a trade. Sources say Musgrove and Moran to Pitt for Gerrit Cole.— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) January 13, 2018
Cole was the prized arm available via trade this winter, and had potential suitors in the Yankees and Cubs, though the Astros ultimately finished off the deal. He'll be headed to Houston to join the reigning world champions, pitching alongside former Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, and rising star Lance McCullers.
Early reports on the deal are favorable for the Astros— the club was able to hold onto core prospects while acquiring one of baseball's most talented young starters.
Cole, 27, has had a polarizing big league career thus far. A former number-one-overall pick of Pittsburgh in the 2011 MLB draft, Cole has shown flashes of dominance among his six seasons in the majors. The right-hander truly broke out in 2015, posting a 19-8, 2.60 ERA in 208.0 innings—good enough for his first All-Star selection and a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young vote.
However, the last two seasons have been frustrating for Cole and the Pirates; the former UCLA ace has compiled a lackluster 4.12 ERA and 1.32 WHIP between '16-'17. Yet both his potential and controllability were huge factors in clubs pursuing Cole; he has two arbitration seasons remaining before free agency.
From the Pirates' side of the things, the return seems a light. Looking at recent trades involving top-of-the-rotation starters, major prospects like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Franklin Perez, Willie Calhoun, and Dustin Fowler all come to mind. For Cole, however, the Pirates were unable to pry loose any of the Astros' top prospects Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, or Derek Fisher. What the Pirates chose to acquire instead were MLB-ready players that can help the club immediately.
Musgrove, 25, was drafted in the first-round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Blue Jays, and was dealt to Houston in a ten-player deal centered around J.A. Happ at the 2012 Trade Deadline. Musgrove has spent his first two MLB seasons primarily as a reliever but has starting pitching potential, according to Baseball America. In 2017, Musgrove made 15 appearances (five starts), recording a 4.77 ERA.
Moran, 25, ranked as high as #61 overall on the 2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, but has struggled to live up to expectations thus far. The third baseman and former first-round pick of the Marlins (2013) impressed in a small seven-game sample at the big league level this summer, and more importantly posted a solid .308/.373/.543 slashline in a 79 game stint at AAA Fresno. Moran ranked fifth in MLB Pipeline's organizational rankings for the Astros in 2017; Pipeline will release brand new organizational rankings later this month.
Feliz, 24, signed with Houston as an international free agent in 2010, and made his big league debut in May of 2015. The right-handed reliever has made 98 appearances in his short major league career, with an unexciting 5.13 ERA but enticing 12.8 K/9 rate. He should factor into the Pirates' Opening Day bullpen in 2018.
Martin, 22, is the furthest of the package from big-league competition. An eight-round selection of the Astros in 2013, Martin has steadily risen through the organization's ranks, combining to hit .278/.332/.487 with 18 home runs across A+ and AA in 2017. The outfielder was ranked 15th in MLB Pipeline's aforementioned rankings.