The Yankees want Gerrit Cole. This we know at this point in the offseason. In his five seasons with Pittsburgh, he’s pitched more than 200 innings twice, averaged a 3.50 ERA, and has dropped below a 100 ERA+ only once in that time (a 99 in 2014).
So yes, the Yankees would like Cole under their Christmas tree as the additional starter they need heading into 2018. It all comes down to whether the Pirates are going to help make that happen or not.
As it stands, the two are in a faceoff because the Pirates want one top prospect to headline the deal (Gleyber Torres) while the Yankees want to send a different prospect (probably still good but almost certainly not as good a player as Clint Frazier). But these rumors have been going on for weeks, and they’ve only finally come to a head. Let’s take a look back at how this all started.
A few weeks back, the rumors started bubbling up when it became clear that Cole was who the Yankees had their sights set on when it came to fulfilling their pitching needs. They actually drafted him in the first round in 2008 but he went to UCLA instead, so there’s the faintest whiff of Pinstripes Scorned here, even if it’s not overt.
The rumors were just speculation until winter meetings, when the Pirates finally starting testing waters and the possible match between them and the Yankees became clear. A day later the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates would trade Cole if their “asking price was met.”
Tellingly, Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said at that point that they would look at the opportunity to trade a starter if they “thought [it] made the organization better.” That’s a sentiment that would come into play as the talks heated up...
...Which started to really happen post-winter meetings, when the Pirates officially asked for Torres and the Yankees said “that’s going to be a NOPE but thanks anyway” and started to wait them out. The talks have continued since, rising and falling throughout the week as each side pokes and prods to see how they can get what they want from this.
For the Yankees, that would be “not giving up Torres and also probably not giving up Frazier if they can help it” whereas for the Pirates, it’s “make an actually decent trade with New York, for once.” For the latter to come to fruition, Frazier is definitely going to have to be part of the deal, but not the only piece.
As it stands now, that looks to be the middle place the two sides are settling in on: The Pirates know what they want and that they probably won’t get Torres, while the Yankees are trying to wait Pittsburgh out even further so that they can keep even more of their pieces and win the trade.
Cole isn’t a free agent until 2020, so any package heading back to the Pirates should have enough pieces to balance out his talent and the team control the Yankees would have over him. But this is also a Yankees/Pirates trade so there’s no guarantee this will end up balanced or at all beneficial for the Pirates.
It appears, however, that they do not choose — at least not yet. The way it seems, Cole will end up in pinstripes before next season, if not before the new year. But right now, the Pirates are still trying to pry free the package they think they deserve while the Yankees are standing pat to see whether the Pirates will panic and make the deal just to make sure they make the deal.