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Pirates trade Gerrit Cole to Astros, for real this time

Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran head return package

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Pirates have traded Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for right-handed pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin. Tim Brown of Yahoo first reported the deal. The Pirates have since confirmed.

The teams reportedly had a deal earlier this week, thought that turned out to be a “false rumor.”

The Pirates appear to have shifted their focus from faint hopes of one more attempt at the contention with their current group in 2018 to more of a reloading for the next several years.

This is not a very exciting return, however. Cole is a prized pitcher with two arbitration-level seasons remaining and, for all the complaints that he’s never become one of MLB’s elite front-line starters, he stands to make a boatload of money, either in an extension with Houston or free agency following the 2019 season.

The return is noticeably absent of the top prospects whose names had been thrown around, Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker or even J.B. Bukauskas.

Baseball America released this preliminary list of the top 10 Astros prospects when it appeared Cole would be dealt Wednesday. Only one player from that list is headed to the Pirates, Moran at No. 9.

Musgrove, 25, presumably “headlines” the package with Moran, and should slot into the Pirates’ Major League starting rotation. He made 25 starts and 24 relief appearances for the Astros over the last two seasons. Reports from the time of his MLB debut in 2016 note an average-to-plus fastball and slider and a changeup with potential.

Moran, 23, was selected by the Marlins sixth overall in the 2013 draft and was traded to the Astros in 2014. He got 37 plate appearances in the majors over the last two seasons, spending most of those years at Triple-A. He improved from a .259/.329/.328, 10 home-run 2016 at Fresno to post a .308/.373/.543 line with 18 homers there in 2017.

His approach leans more average than power, though his defense his reportedly improved to the point he’s passable at third base, where he’ll be of use to the Pirates. He’d fallen all the way to 30th in the Houston organization in Baseball America’s rankings going into 2018.

Feliz, 24, pitched 121 innings of relief in the majors from 2015 to 2017, most of that coming the last two years. He struck out 13.13 batters per nine innings and walked 4.13 in 2017. His fastball averaged 96.2 MPH, and the slider appears to be his main secondary pitch.

Martin, 22, posted a .278/.332/.487 line with 18 home runs and 35 doubles and stole 16 bases in 27 attempts in High-A and Double-A in 2017. Listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds, Martin has a speedy profile with some power.