The worst-kept secret in all of baseball right now is that the Chicago Cubs need pitching. They have checked in on just about any pitcher who is breathing, and very possibly have called the agents of a couple deceased pitchers as well. The search is quite literally, high and low.
At the Cubs end of season press-conference, Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein mentioned the team could very possibly trade a fan favorite this offseason. The purpose, acquire pitching.
Enter the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates are shopping just about any piece of value in an effort to rebuild. The team has most notably shopped their franchise player, Andrew McCutchen this offseason. Cutch is one of those players that instantly makes any roster better, and is a true superstar in this league. The other piece and the one which the Cubs should be paying much more attention to is, Gerrit Cole.
Cole is the perfect example of what the Cubs are looking for. An electric young pitcher, with several years of experience. Someone who has the ability to be a staff ace, and is under team control for several seasons.
Cole has had back-to-back subpar seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a 4.12 ERA in 319 innings pitched. But in 2015 he was a legit Cy Young candidate. His 19 wins were tied for third in baseball. He boasted a 2.60 ERA, good for fifth in the NL. He also notched the seventh-best WHIP, 1.09.
He is a guy that will regain his form. With a revolving door in Pittsburgh, threats of trades, and tons of uncertainty, Gerrit’s performance suffered. But put him back in a playoff race, like 2015, and he will be that guy again. Bigtime arms get up for bigtime situations, and that is exactly what Cole is.
The question would be, who would the Cubs send to Pittsburgh?
The first guy I point to is Ian Happ. Happ fits into what the Pirates want to do right now, a team looking to rebuild with talented youth. Sure Pittsburgh has Josh Harrison at second, but he has played all over the diamond – 2B, 3B, SS, LF, RF. Harrison has a valuable bat, but Happ has more power potential. Happ also plays all over the diamond as well, so co-existing wouldn’t be as much of an issue in Pittsburgh as it is in Chicago.
Would the Pirates be interested in getting six years of Happ for two years of Cole? I think it is a good flip, one that helps both organizations. Only thing, would the Pirates trade within the division?
Back in October, Nathan Hursh of Pirates Breakdown did a story on how the Cubs and the Pirates match up well. With a plethora of young hitters under team control for several years. The Pirates have several young and talented pitchers under control for years to come. Perfect match, right!?
Their article lists off these guys as potential gets for the Cubs; Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, and Nick Kingham. I like a couple of the names, and Taillon really sticks out to me, but Cole is the get in Pittsburgh. What’s more is, Pirates Breakdown believes that the Pirates would have to overpay to land one of the Cubs hitters.
“For any deal to get done, the Pirates may need to overpay. No Cubs player will be cheap by any means. These players are immensely talented. They are also extremely accomplished for such a young age.”
While yes, if the Cubs were looking for one of the Pirates younger starters, the Pirates would overpay. But a deal for Cole should be able to be easily completed, that is if the Cubs would be willing to trade a player like Happ.
The sides have paired on deals in the past, so working together isn’t a tough sell to anyone. The Cubs purchased the contract of Clayton Richard in 2015, in 2009 the two sides swapped Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow for Josh Harrison, Kevin Hart, and Jose Ascanio. In 2003 the two sides paired up on a pair of deals. The first included Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Burback. Then the Cubs went back to the well for Randall Simon for Ray Sadler.
It certainly isn’t unprecedented that the two teams would work together, and a Cole for Happ swap would be a good move for each side.