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Bucco Breakfast: The Road Less Traveled

Or, Hindsight is 20/20. Pick your cliche!

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates shot for the moon when they were trying to send Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees. Does that count for anything?

Welcome to Bucco Breakfast, a new daily morning feature designed to help you through the offseason. Each day we’ll roll out a quick topic designed to spark conversation as well as provide some interesting baseball reading from around the web.

As former Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole marches towards the postseason with the Houston Astros, many are looking back to the trade that brought Cole to the defending World Series Champions.

One such look back comes from Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. He writes:

The Pittsburgh Pirates learned quickly Gleyber Torres was off limits in talks with the Yankees about Cole. Among the other Yankees names discussed were Miguel Andujar, Esteven Florial, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Nick Solak and Tyler Wade. Ultimately, the Yankees grew comfortable with a package centered around Frazier, though Pittsburgh wanted Andujar and Frazier. A bidding war did not emerge, as both the Yankees and Astros positioned themselves as content to move on without Cole.

This is not news, per se. Others had similar reports way back when the eventual trade with Houston was announced. Yet the trade is worth revisiting once again, with the hindsight that a full season’s worth of performance can provide.

From an executive perspective, I believe that Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington should be given a tiny bit of credit here, if only in retrospect. In asking for the moon from the New York Yankees, Huntington was trying his best to decisively win the trade almost from the jump. Bringing in Frazier and Andujar would have instantly jump started the club’s biggest need with two right-handed power bats, and both would have served as natural replacements for Andrew McCutchen and the presumed-departed Jung Ho Kang.

Some would say that this means absolutely nothing if a deal does not get done. Alas.

From a strictly on the field perspective, it’s still hard to tell which deal would have been better for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even one year is not enough to determine a “winner” for a trade of this magnitude, and Frazier’s struggles with concussions muddy the waters.

But, I think most everyone can agree that Andujar over Colin Moran would have been a huge improvement to say the least. Andujar just completed a near-three win, 128 wRC+ rookie season, while Moran’s flaws are clearly evident.

Putting Frazier’s concussion issues aside for a moment, one can reasonably assume that having Frazier in the outfield would have precluded the club from acquiring Corey Dickerson. For a team that was still a ways away, investing six years in a top-25 level prospect is infinitely more interesting than bringing in a two-year stopgap.

Michael Feliz looks like little more than a throw-in at this point. So, Meh. Jason Martin looks like a legit prospect, even if he stalled out a bit in his first taste at Triple-A.

That leaves Joe Musgrove as the linchpin on which this trade will be judged, much like many felt when the trade was finalized. There’s a lot to like about Musgrove, yet many still pine about what Gerrit Cole could have been if the Pittsburgh Pirates would have shaken themselves free of their pitching dogma before their relationship with their prized pitcher was irrefutably broken.

It’s easy to look back in hindsight and wonder what might have been. In this case, the 2018 Pirates and beyond might have looked considerably better if they had gone for quality over quantity.

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