For most of the winter, the Yankees have been at the center of the Gerrit Cole trade rumors. Over the last few weeks, they were the only team known to be actively negotiating with the Pirates for their top starter. Reports cycled between a deal being imminent, to nowhere close, to not done but an inevitability.
One such report from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman summed up the lengthy series of rumors as Brian Cashman’s quintessential strategy: make an offer for a controllable starter, then wait and watch. The rival executive is pressured into making a decision. A majority of their player’s value stems from the controllable contract to which they’re signed. That value can quickly diminish between seasons.
It’s a strategy that worked out well for Cashman in the Sonny Gray negotiations, and has had free reign to deploy in the Cole dealings. After all, no other team was actively pursuing him. It could only be beneficial to appear heavily interested and yet only operate by Cashman’s terms with no opposing team to drive up the price. That dream scenario may not last much longer, however.
On Monday, news broke that the Astros were “pursuing a front-end starter”, and Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Passan reported that the Astros were in negotiations for Cole. The report included speculation that the Pirates would want one of the team’s top two prospects, Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, as a centerpiece.
That Pittsburgh would request one of those two in return falls in line with what their asking price has been for much of the negotiations. While the Yankees have been adamant about not including their top prospect Gleyber Torres or the high ranking Estevan Florial, it is unknown if Houston is willing to offer their blue chip prospects for Cole. With Dallas Keuchel in line to earn a massive contract next year, getting a cost-controlled starter like Cole could become a top priority for Houston.
This leads to the larger question for the Yankees: just how serious are they about Cole? Has Cashman’s interest just been due diligence to potentially swipe a solid starter if it falls his way, or has the lack of movement on the deal opened up the possibility of being outbid?
Even if the Astros ultimately decide against going for Cole, their involvement in finding a high end starter may be what finally moves the stalled out free agent market. All it could take is one piece to move for the wheels to start turning, and for the remaining suitors to give Cole more attention. Either way, soon Cashman will have to play his cards or fold for this round and go back in at the trade deadline.