Fans putting together trades is a favorite way to warm up the winter with baseball talk involving a favorite team.
Back in my younger days, we did it with simple discussion or baseball cards. WAR was what was going on in Vietnam. Slugging percentage was about the most advanced statistic we used in the pre-internet days.
Now, however, we are in the digital age, with fans of the Gen-Z having known nothing else. They have brought us advanced analysis we would never have thought of that adds to the joy of baseball.
One of these byproducts, of course, is Social Media, where fans, especially on the channel known as Twitter, propose trades and ask other followers what they think. Most times, and this has simply evolved from discussions of another era, the proposed trade is weighted heavily toward the fan’s favorite team.
I agree this is natural. I did the same back when Mantle was playing. Want a player like Willie Mays to join the Yankees, then trade three pitchers you don’t use, or are unproven, and see if San Francisco will throw in Orlando (Cha Cha) Cepeda while they’re at it.
Then something funny happened to me. I went to college, graduated and became a baseball writer, first covering the Pittsburgh Pirates – the 1979 We Are Family team has players I still keep in touch with – and later the New York Yankees and their ever-improving minor-league system.
I state this because I found myself in a unique spot when the Yankees began engaging in trade talks with the Pirates involving Gerrit Cole, a right-handed fire-baller the Yankees have long coveted. In this case, I know both teams well, have well-placed sources with both and, most importantly, understand the needs of both teams.
The Yankees want Cole to bolster their rotation for a run at the World Series. The Pirates, who are not your 2000 sad-sacks anymore – they have a decent club, a system that basically matches that of the Yankees and a decision to make whether to try to contend in 2018 or retool for 2019.
And if you think their possibly trading Cole is a salary dump, like Jeter sending outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees for two low-level minor-leaguers, you are mistaken. The Pirates made $51 million in profit in 2017.
So, if the Yankees, if they want Cole bad enough, will have to pay the price for a top-drawer pitcher who has two years of control left at a salary that in arbitration will likely not increase to much more than $5 million.
With trades, you have to “Give to Get, or Forget.’’ This does not mean trading Gleyber Torres to the Pirates, nor does it need sending the Bucs prospects in areas their system is strong. Many Yankees fans have not heard of right-handed pitchers Mitch Keller and Nick Kingham, who are as good or better than Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo.
RHP Luis Escobar is drawing comparisons to Luis Severino. Also in their stable are RHP Tyler Glasnow and RHP Jameson Taillon, the latter who was 8-7, 4.44 on his rookie season in 2017.
They also have two excellent infield prospects in third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and shortstop Kevin Newman, who both are fairly close.
The Bucs want a proven MLB starter as part of a package in return for Cole. That would be left-hander Jordan Montgomery. They are also looking for a potential power-hitting young outfielder to eventually replace Andrew McCutchen and join Starling Marte and Greg Polanco in PNC Park. That would be Clint Frazier.
Cole fills the Yankees’ needs, while Montgomery and Frazier would fill the Pirates’ needs. That is what has to happen to make this trade have a chance of concluding.