1. Gerrit Cole
2017 Season: 33 starts, 203 innings, 12-12 record, 4.26 ERA, 196 SO, 55 BB
Finally, Gerrit Cole is the top trade option for the Twins. In fact, he’s reportedly someone that’s caught Minnesota’s interest in the early goings of the offseason as well.
Basically, a trade for Cole makes a lot of sense. As Berardino lays out, he’d come with two years of control and won’t break the bank. Not to mention, the Pittsburgh Pirates may be heading towards rebuilding considering they missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
In comparison to Archer, Cole probably comes with a lower price tag, although their ceilings are similar. Reason being, Cole had a bit of a down year in 2017 after an injury-plagued 2016. Specifically, he went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and uncharacteristically gave up 31 home runs. To put in perspective, Cole is a career 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA and has never allowed more than 11 home runs in a season prior to last. Nevertheless, he managed to pitch over 200 innings for the second time in three seasons, ranking third in the NL with 203 innings pitched. He also put up 196 strikeouts, showing great velocity on his pitches.
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Altogether, Cole still has all the tools to play as well as he did in 2015 when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting behind the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw. A year he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 208 innings and made his first All-Star appearance. At only 27 years old, he still has an elite, high 90s fastball to go along with an excellent slider, curve, and changeup. In addition, he steadily improved over the course of last season, so there’s reason to believe missing nearly half of the 2016 season played a role in 2017.
Even so, the fact he’s coming off a mediocre season bodes well for Minnesota as they look for an ace-caliber pitcher. Sure, he’ll still come rather expensive, but he won’t cost nearly as much as someone like Archer, who also has double the amount of seasons left on his contract.
In the end, Cole has the ability to be a special player at the top of the rotation for years to come, so Falvey and Levine should make every effort to take a run at him if he’s available. Given starting pitching is the priority, the Pirates’ ace should be the top trade target for the Twins.