Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bucs Pull the Trigger on Cole: Recap and Player Sketches

Well, the Gerritt Cole era is over. The Bucs got a package back of guys who were all complimentary pieces for Houston, and at first look appears a bit light, although time will tell ("Felipe who?"). Three of the guys - Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran and Michael Feliz - should break camp with the club while Jason Martin will start in the high minors. All the former 'Stros have some tools; they also have some flaws.

Adios Cole Train (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The Pirates return does fill a couple of holes (third base at the MLB level and OF in the minors) with a couple of converted starters to add to a crowded pen, unless a resurrection is planned and all four have oodles of team control left. That indicates a transition rather than teardown, and the Pirates do have a few unproven but one step away starters - Steven Brault, Nick Kingham, maybe even Tyler Glasnow - in the system plus a gang that are a couple or three seasons away. They'll have to make a couple of moves in the 40-man roster, yet to be announced. Here's the nutshell on the new Pirates:

Joe Musgrove: Nope, he ain't Forest Whitley and in fact may not even be a starter. Houston gave him the ball to start 15 times last year and he went 4-8, 6.12. Shuffled to the pen, he became a stellar set-up guy, going 3-0-2, 1.44 ERA, with five holds in 23 games and a K per inning. The Pirates want to use him as a starter, although his excellent bullpen work leaves them wiggle room. He tosses a sinker, curve and change. Musgrove has five years of team control remaining for the 2011 late first rounder.

Colin Moran: The 3B/1B was a man without a position for Houston as he was blocked at third by Alex Bregman and part of a crowd at first. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter (throws right) was a first-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft (6th overall by Miami) and hit .308/.373/.534 with 18 homers in 79 games in AAA. He's only been in 16 MLB games, hitting .206, but he's made an effort to pull the ball more that resulted in a power boost, at least in the minors.  Moran is considered MLB-ready; his coming-out last year was delayed when he suffered facial fractures from a foul. He can play both corners and possibly outfield with some reps, so he'll give the Bucs a lefty with corner versatility, providing a partner for David Freese and at least a bridge for K'Bryan Hayes. Moran has five years of team control.

Michael Feliz: The 24-year-old Dominican righty may have been brought up too soon by the 'Stros; he only has 8-1/3 AAA IP, and that was in 2016. They converted him from minor-league starter to the pen. In three years at Houston, he's gone 12-3, albeit with a 5.13 ERA although with a better-looking 3.67 FIP. Feliz misses bats with 172 K in 121 MLB frames, but also has inconsistent control and gives up 1.5 dingers per nine. He's intriguing because of his stuff but a question mark due to his control. It'll be interesting to see if the Pirates keep him in the pen, as they suggested in their trade release, or consider stretching him out with a three-pitch toolkit of heater, slider and change. He won't be arb-eligible until 2019.

Jason Martin: Martin was Houston's eighth-round pick in the 2013 draft out of high school. The 22-year-old outfielder played in High A and AA last year, slashing .278/.332/.487 between the two, showing good power while whiffing 100+ times. Martin has an average arm, projecting as a LF/4th outfielder. He'll join the Bucs pipeline in the minors (probably Altoona; he was offered as a Rule 5 player but teams passed because of his rawness) in a position that's not very deep in the organization.


WilliamJPellas said...

If Moran works out as a major league starter to replace Kang at third, and the Pirates get some useful bullpen innings out of the other two guys, this trade might work out alright. Not great, but alright.

Let's not forget a couple of things about Cole. First, despite his outstanding raw stuff, he never really put it together for a full season in Pittsburgh other than 2015. While he was really good that year, it was also the only one where he really looked like the high draft pick that he was.

Also: he had a losing record in college. That tells me that he never did have a particularly good idea of how to pitch, as opposed to being able to throw hard.

And of course there was his grandstanding about being underpair in spring training in 2016--obviously "encouraged" by his wonderful agent. Cole was never, ever going to re-sign in Pittsburgh no matter what. And when he failed to back up his big mouth with on-field performance over the past two seasons, it was time to move on. He had plenty of arm problems the past two campaigns, and if blows his arm out in Houston, the timing of this deal will look much better.

In short: while it would have been nice to get a near-elite prospect in exchange for Cole, Cole himself is NOT a near-elite major league pitcher. I'm not sure the team didn't do about as well as it could have with this deal, all things considered.

Ron Ieraci said...

Agreed, Will. There's always been debate on Cole's status as an ace arm, but his production doesn't match his potential, and the value other teams placed on him show that. He may still see the light, but his Pirates clock ran out of ticks. Moran, I think, is key - the pitchers look like bullpen material (Feliz strikes me as Arquimedes Caminero 2.0; hope Uncle Ray has some pixie dust for him) and Martin has the look of a depth piece.