Back in December, it appeared as if the Yankees had agreed with the Pirates on a deal to acquire righty starter Gerrit Cole, however, those rumors eventually fizzled when both sides couldn’t see eye to eye on a return package. Several weeks later, a separate deal with the Astros looked to be imminent, yet despite those particular reports, the Cubs are apparently now in the running among who knows how many other clubs. And even though the Dodgers don’t necessarily need another front-line starter, it probably wouldn’t hurt the Los Angeles front office crew to exercise their due diligence and make a few phone calls.
A few days before Christmas, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the deal with the Yankees was all but finished, as New York was prepared to surrender Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and Chance Adams. That deal fell apart, though, when Pittsburgh reportedly asked for Gleyber Torres and Estevan Florial. And now that a potential agreement with the Cubs has seemingly lost its momentum, a free-for-all for multiple teams around the league could soon quickly erupt.
Coincidentally, on Friday, the Pirates awarded Cole with a one-year, $6.75 million deal to avoid salary arbitration. In 2017, the 27-year-old righty posted a 12-12 record with a 4.26 ERA while making a career-high 33 starts. He has one year of arbitration remaining and could command a huge salary bump in 2019—the primary reason the Pirates have explored trading him since the end of last season.
After an injury-riddled 2016 campaign, Cole seems to be back on pace to return close to his 2015 form, when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and a 2.66 FIP while striking out 202 batters over an even 208 innings. He features a heater which often exceeds 96 MPH, and a plus-slider he uses as hit “put-away” pitch.
On paper, the Orange County native and UCLA product would fit in perfectly with the Dodgers, who right now project to use four left-handers and one righty in their Opening Day rotation, if everything stays on track. The addition of Cole could theoretically add a legit No. 2 or No. 3 starter, while giving the club the option of utilizing a phantom six-man rotation, similar to what happened last year when one starter was often found on the disabled list carousel.
Over the past few days, the Dodgers took care of all their own players who were arbitration eligible, reaching deals with Alex Wood, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Josh Fields, Enrique Hernandez, Tony Cingrani and Pedro Baez. According to Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, Los Angeles is now about $20 million under the 2018 luxury tax threshold; however, that number does not include any incentives or performance bonuses for the upcoming season. Conceivably, there’s still plenty room to absorb Cole’s salary, and there’s no question the Dodgers definitely have the prospects the Pirates desire to get a deal done. Even if Andrew Friedman and his group wouldn’t feel comfortable paying the full $6.75 million, there may be a possibility that Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington would agree to pay a portion of Cole’s 2018 salary, depending on what he gets in return.
In the end, if the Dodgers could ultimately find common ground with the Pirates, a deal to bring home Cole would be huge. For a club that already has very limited holes in its roster, an addition such as this would certainly push the team’s 2018 outlook over the top.