The Yankees and Pirates are still discussing a potential deal for RHP Gerrit Cole but the Pirates are talking to "multiple other clubs" as it's not "Yankees or bust," according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, who says a deal "doesn't appear imminent."
This is yet another twist in the Yankees' pursuit of Cole. Thursday, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan reporting Thursday night indicating a deal being completed was "a matter of when rather than if."
The Yankees and Pirates have expressed confidence they can complete a deal, according to Passan, however no trade package is complete and the two sides appear to differ on which player would be the centerpiece of a potential trade. The Yankees still appear to be favorites to land Cole, though they have competition.
Initially, the details of the trade talks centered around the Yankees sending 23-year-old outfielder Clint Frazier to Pittsburgh, according to the New York Post's George A. King III. The Pirates had reportedly asked about top infield prospect Gleyber Torres, according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, though the Yankees were very unlikely to include Torres. Heyman added that Frazier is still the more likely centerpiece but it would take another prospect too, perhaps third baseman Miguel Andujar or RHP Chance Adams.
Should the Yankees deal a combination of Frazier, Andujar and Adams, there is a chance New York could also acquire Pirates third baseman/outfielder Josh Harrison, who hit .272 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs last season and is eligible to become a free agent after the 2018 season, according to the New York Daily News' Kristie Ackert and Bill Madden.
New York has reportedly been interested in Cole, who can become a free agent in 2020, since last year's trade deadline despite the Pirates' unwillingness to deal the 27-year-old former first-round pick.
New Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the team is looking to acquire another starting pitcher, and Cole is among the pitchers New York has shown interest in. Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer and Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin have also been players the Yankees have reportedly inquired about, as well as free-agent RHPs Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, according to Heyman, The Yankees earlier this month re-signed LHP CC Sabathia.
The Yankees' rotation currently features RHP Luis Severino, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Masahiro Tanaka, LHP Jordan Montgomery and Sabathia, or a prospect like Adams, in whom the Pirates have shown interest, could potentially earn a spot out of spring training.
However, trading for a starting pitcher like Cole could cost the Yankees Frazier, who entered last season ranked within the top 40 prospects by Baseball Prospectus (No. 16), MLB.com (No. 24) and Baseball America (No. 39).
Frazier had a .231/.268/.448 batting line with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 39 MLB games after debuting over the summer. With Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he hit .256 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs in 74 games.
Cole, who was drafted by the Yankees 28th overall in 2008 but opted to attend UCLA, has been with the Pirates since he was the No. 1 pick in 2011. An All-Star in 2015, he is 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in 127 career starts, however he had a career-worst 4.26 ERA while going 12-12 in 33 starts last year.
Cole earned $3.75 million last season and will go through the arbitration process this offseason to determine his 2018 salary.
Of the trade options that the Yankees have been connected to, Cole seems to make the most sense to me in terms of what it should take to acquire him and the expected production he will supply.
Cole has upside, but the Yankees must be wary of his steadily climbing ERA since his 2015 All-Star season. Cole allowed a career-high 31 home runs in 2017, despite lowering his walk rate (2.4 BB/9) and increasing his strikeout rate (8.7 K/9). The home runs were never an issue before 2017, but if it is the start of a trend, it could be an issue for a right-hander in Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees certainly do not have an issue if they trade Frazier with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton crowding the outfield for the foreseeable future. Frazier is blocked now and would likely still be fourth on the outfield depth chart in 2019.
While I can see Frazier in a deal for Cole, I cannot envision the Yankees adding Adams to the deal as well. The second piece should be someone lower in the prospect ranks to pair with Frazier. The Yankees can use another starter or even two, but they should not feel pressured to jump on a deal that may end up being an overpayment.