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Pirates trade Gerrit Cole

| Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, 6:06 a.m.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the seventh inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the seventh inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole watches action from the dugout during a game against the Brewers Sunday, June, 8, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole watches action from the dugout during a game against the Brewers Sunday, June, 8, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole takes the field for his Grapefruit League debut against the Orioles Friday, March 3, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole takes the field for his Grapefruit League debut against the Orioles Friday, March 3, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole lays down a sacrifice bunt during the third inning against the Cardinals Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole lays down a sacrifice bunt during the third inning against the Cardinals Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after the Marlins scored their seventh run during the fifth inning Thursday, June 8, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after the Marlins scored their seventh run during the fifth inning Thursday, June 8, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the second inning against the Giants Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the second inning against the Giants Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole talks with catcher Francisco Cervelli during the third inning against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole talks with catcher Francisco Cervelli during the third inning against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, at PNC Park.
Fans watch from above, as Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole warms up in the bullpen before the start of his MLB debut against the Giants Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Fans watch from above, as Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole warms up in the bullpen before the start of his MLB debut against the Giants Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the first inning against the Red Sox Monday, April 3, 2017, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the first inning against the Red Sox Monday, April 3, 2017, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole sits in the dugout between innings during a game against the Twins Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole sits in the dugout between innings during a game against the Twins Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole loses his helmet as he dives into second base during the second inning against the Giants Wednesday, May 7, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole loses his helmet as he dives into second base during the second inning against the Giants Wednesday, May 7, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole signs autographs outside the clubouse before a game against the Red Sox Monday, March 3, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole signs autographs outside the clubouse before a game against the Red Sox Monday, March 3, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole watches John Jaso get stranded at third base from the dugout after being removed from the game during the seventh inning against the Cubs Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole watches John Jaso get stranded at third base from the dugout after being removed from the game during the seventh inning against the Cubs Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole walks from the field with catcher Francisco Cervelli after the Red Sox scored five runs in the fifth inning Monday, April 3, 2017, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole walks from the field with catcher Francisco Cervelli after the Red Sox scored five runs in the fifth inning Monday, April 3, 2017, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole has his photo taken for a banner to hang outside PNC Park during photo day Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in the cafeteria at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole has his photo taken for a banner to hang outside PNC Park during photo day Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in the cafeteria at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
The Reds' Brandon Phillips slides safely into third base, as Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole applies a late tag during the fourth inning Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Reds' Brandon Phillips slides safely into third base, as Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole applies a late tag during the fourth inning Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after giving up a run during a spring training game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after giving up a run during a spring training game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole talks with A.J. Burnett at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. 
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole talks with A.J. Burnett at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle greets pitcher Gerrit Cole upon his arrival Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle greets pitcher Gerrit Cole upon his arrival Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitchers Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton work the crowd of fans gathered by Field 5 Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitchers Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton work the crowd of fans gathered by Field 5 Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole walks to the mound on Roberto Clemente Day at the start of a game against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole walks to the mound on Roberto Clemente Day at the start of a game against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole sits in the dugout with Francisco Liriano during a game against the Brewers Sunday, June, 8, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole sits in the dugout with Francisco Liriano during a game against the Brewers Sunday, June, 8, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole bundles up next to Starling Marte in the dugout during a game against the Houston Astros Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. 
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole bundles up next to Starling Marte in the dugout during a game against the Houston Astros Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws in the bullpen before a game against the Red Sox Monday, March 3, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws in the bullpen before a game against the Red Sox Monday, March 3, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after giving up a homerun against the Cubs in the fifth inning of the National League Wild Card game Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after giving up a homerun against the Cubs in the fifth inning of the National League Wild Card game Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the first inning against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the first inning against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, the team's No.1 draft pick in 2011, holds a ball for a portrait during photo day Sunday February 26, 2012 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, the team's No.1 draft pick in 2011, holds a ball for a portrait during photo day Sunday February 26, 2012 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole is examined by assistant trainer Ben Potenziano after being hit by a line drive during the sixth inning against the Tigers Thursday, April 14, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole is examined by assistant trainer Ben Potenziano after being hit by a line drive during the sixth inning against the Tigers Thursday, April 14, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole celebrates in the clubhouse after defeating the Braves Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole celebrates in the clubhouse after defeating the Braves Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Pirates pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon run together during their workout Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon run together during their workout Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

(Rob Biertempfel | Tribune Review) On the morning after, the Gerrit Cole trade did not look any better to Pirates fans.

In exchange for Cole, a former All-Star and last year's opening day starter, the Pirates got four players from the Houston Astros: third baseman Colin Moran, right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, and minor league outfielder Jason Martin.

On social media sites, on sports talk radio, in church parking lots, and at tailgates before the Steelers playoff game at Heinz Field, many folks spoke up against the trade.

Around baseball, the trade drew mixed reactions.

One veteran evaluator who regularly scouts the Astros and their farm system was not impressed by the players the Pirates received.

“I think it's a brutal deal for Pitt,” the scout said via text message. “Musgrove and Feliz both have (major league) value, but both (as) relievers. Moran and Martin to me are throw-in types.”

Jonathan Mayo, a Pittsburgh-based analyst for MLB Pipeline, took a more favorable view.

“I like Musgrove a lot. Moran was the most advanced bat in the 2013 draft and lost his way in 2016 before swinging it really well last year. Feliz throws 100 mph, but doesn't always know where it's going. The Pirates have had success with helping guys like that.

“Moran and Martin are top-30 (rated) guys. Musgrove and Feliz are no longer prospects, but Musgrove was a top-100 overall prospect once upon a time.”

Why did the deal happen? One way or another, Cole eventually was going to leave the Pirates.

The club was not going to offer Cole a contract extension. And it has no chance of re-signing the right-hander when he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season.

On Saturday, general manager Neal Huntington did the only thing that makes sense in the Pirates' business model. He traded Cole before his trade value started to slip.

Cole is 27 years old and on Friday signed a $6.75 million contract for 2018.

None of the four players the Pirates acquired is even arbitration-eligible yet. This year, Moran (25 years old), Musgrove (25) and Feliz (24) each will make around the big league minimum of $545,000.

Martin is still only a prospect — he'll likely spend this year at Double-A Altoona — so it's too soon to plot his big league earnings and free agency track.

By dealing Cole, the Pirates got an outfielder to dream on and gained a total of 15 years of control from three big leaguers. They also shaved about $4 million from their payroll, which again will be among the lowest in the majors.

“It was a hard decision,” Huntington said. “Even though he had two years of potential contribution left here in Pittsburgh, we traded him for a package that we believe is a combination of guys who've had prospect value … but also have major league value.”

Musgrove, Feliz and Moran are expected to begin the season in the majors. Moran will get a shot at being the everyday third baseman. Feliz could someday evolve into a late-inning reliever. Huntington did not say whether Musgrove — who was on the Astros' playoff roster last year as a reliever — will pitch in the rotation or out of the bullpen.

Could the Pirates have done better than what they got?

ESPN analyst Buster Olney suggested the New York Yankees likely offered a player with greater star potential, such as slugger Clint Frazier or pitcher Chance Adams.

In situations like these, the Pirates' business model often values quantity over quality. A bigger group of mid- to high-talent players could produce more long-term value than one or two players with higher upside.

Notes: Infielder Engelb Vielma and right-hander Shane Carle were designated for assignment to open 40-man roster spots for players obtained in the Cole trade. Vielma and Carle both were claimed off waivers over the past few weeks. … The Pirates used to play the Astros a couple of times each year in spring training. However, the Astros last year moved their camp from Kissimmee, Fla., to West Palm Beach, Fla., which is much farther away from Pirates camp in Bradenton, Fla.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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