Coming into the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans had realistic hope that they would return to the postseason after missing out the year before. They had some young promising pitchers coming through to the major leagues, homegrown talent all around the diamond, and the confidence in former MVP Andrew McCutchen that he would return to form.

Unfortunately, every possible worse case scenario has come to reality to begin the year. The Pirates own a 16-22 record, good for dead last in the NL Central, while playing some real uninspiring baseball. The rough start has brought up the question, should the Pirates look to be sellers at the trade deadline?

The name that has been brought up the most in trade talks since the Pirates downhill spiral is their ace, Gerrit Cole. The reason for has certainly not been his performance, as Cole has looked more like the pitcher that finished fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2015 rather than his poor 2016 season. Cole is currently 1-4 with a 3.06 ERA, looking great other than a rough Opening day outing to begin the year. He has now went five straight starts where he pitched at least six innings while giving up two earned runs or less without a win. You can’t blame that on Cole, that’s all on the offense.

By proving that last years injury plagued season was a fluke, Cole has a ton of trade value right now on the open market. The Pirates might not be able to pass on a deal if it’s as good as an Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman type offer. The fact that he has two more years of team control makes him even more of an intriguing option for a team that is looking to bolster their rotation for the stretch run. If Chapman got the Yankees back Gleyber Torres and he was only a rental, imagine what Cole can get in return.

Out of all the teams that might make a move for a top-tier arm like Cole, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros look like logical landing spots for him. Either team has a plethora of top prospects to offer to the Pirates and might pull the trigger on a deal considering both are first in their respective divisions.

If the Yankees come out offering a Torres or a Clint Frazier, it’s going to be hard to say no. Not only would they have to offer a top-notch prospect like those two players but a bunch of additional players would have to be included as well. If the godfather offer is out there, the Pirates are going to be awfully tempted to have to take it.

If there isn’t a deal of that nature being talked about though, the Pirates shouldn’t even consider dealing their top arm. As previously mentioned, Cole has two more years under team control so there is no rush to try to trade him to get something back in return. The Pirates won’t feel that pressure until next year and even more so in 2019.

Jameson Taillon, before going down with testicular cancer, was looking like a future ace that can be Cole’s right hand man for years to come. Ivan Nova has also been a pleasant surprise this year, pitching as good as he ever has in his first full season in Pittsburgh. This Pirates team is a lot better than their record shows as injuries and the Starling Marte suspension have a whole lot to do with it. If the Pirates don’t get a crazy offer that they can’t refuse, they would be smart to hold onto Cole and continuing to go after it this year and beyond.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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