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Would the Pirates send Gerrit Cole back to the minors?

Jun 24, 2013, 12:46 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

Gerrit Cole is 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA through three career starts, walking just one batter in 18 innings while throwing 101 miles per hour and defeating Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, and Jered Weaver.

And apparently the Pirates might send him back to the minors. General manager Neal Huntington said on his radio show Sunday that demoting Cole would make “smart business sense” once the Pirates’ other starters are healthy.

Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes that part of the move would simply be due to Cole having minor-league options and the Pirates having six starters for five spots, but sending the former No. 1 pick back to the minors would also limit his service time enough for Cole to avoid “Super 2″ arbitration status down the line.

For now it’s a moot point, as Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett are both on the disabled list, but the clock is ticking on Cole’s first taste of the big leagues.

  1. Jack Marshall - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Business or not, that’s a slap in the face to the Pirates fans, and despicable in every way.

    • gbrim - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      Pirates have a very limited budget–keeping Cole much less expensive for a full year down the road is not an outrageous choice if it helps them keep more of their young core players together longer.

    • apkyletexas - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      No its not. I’m a Pirates fan. The Bucs are in the middle of a playoff chase. Who do I want pitching in a critical game – a healthy AJ, a healthy Wandy, or a flame-throwing rookie? We need AJ and Wandy for the remainder of the season or we won’t have a shot at the playoffs. I can tell you, there’s no way Cole is taking a job from a healthy AJ or Wandy right now.

      And he’s not taking Jeff Locke’s job (one of the NL’s best so far this season). He’s not taking Francisco Liriano’s job – he’s also pitching too well.

      If Cole wants to stay in Pittsburgh without a trip back to Indianapolis, he needs to steal Charlie Morton’s job as the 5th starter. And I’m not sure what the team’s minor league options are with respect to Morton. Huntington might be correct – Cole is the one man who can easily be optioned back to Indy for a short spell. If he does go back to Indy, I don’t expect he’ll be there very long at all.

      • psuorioles - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        If you don’t expect him to be in Indy very long, then why send him down in the first place… If he was in my organization pitching the way he is, I’d want him in The Show and not some AAA ballpark.

      • apkyletexas - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

        >”If you don’t expect him to be in Indy very long, then why send him down in the first place”

        1. Not all healthy players can simply be sent to the minors. The rules are complicated, but you only have 3 years you can option a guy freely to the minors, and a 4th year in some cases. I doubt that AJ, Wandy, or Francisco are eligible for optioning to the minors based on their years of service, and Charlie Morton may not be eligible either. Jeff Locke is probably eligible, but he is pitching far too well (and is healthy), so he couldn’t be optioned
        2. Gerrit Cole can be optioned to the minors without going through waivers, and he can go freely between the minor league club and the major league club for the rest of the year. This is because he hasn’t used up any of his option years.

        The Pirates have already sent 6 or 7 starting pitchers to the DL this year, so even if Cole is sent down, it’s almost certain he’ll be brought back up again soon enough to fill in for an injury. In the meantime, he can continue to work on his command, work on his strikeout pitches, and keep pitching in his regular rotation by going to Indianapolis. Despite his multiple 100+ mph pitches in 3 starts, he only has 8 strikeouts in 18 innings. He needs to work on his strikeout pitches if he is going to fulfill his potential at the major league level.

    • headbeeguy - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      If the Pirates were smart with it, they could probably eliminate Super 2 with only 2 missed starts (demote the day after he pitches, skip two starts, call back up right before the third). It seems like two weeks would do the trick.

      At that point, it’s deciding whether two more starts from Charlie Morton is worth saving several million dollars in a few years. I think there are arguments on both sides (since the Pirates are in contention right now; if they weren’t it would be a no-brainer to send him back down), but calling one “despicable” seems a little excessive.

      • apkyletexas - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        Charlie Morton has a 2.81 ERA in three starts – better than Cole. Gerrit Cole has gotten decent run support to help him win his first three, but his ERA is a legit 3.44, and he was yanked in the 5th inning of one recent start.

        Just because the guy is throwing fire doesn’t mean he’s going to win every time you trot him out. He’s still got a few tricks of the trade to learn. But, despite that, I’m sure he will solidly be the Pirates’ ace by this time next year, and hopefully for many years to come.

    • drone501 - Jun 26, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      eventually pirate management is going to have to pay the man. just write out the goddamn check, nutting.

  2. jm91rs - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    This is very similar to Cingrani with the Reds. If he’s got the options you send him back down until someone really struggles or gets hurt. Believe me it’s refreshing to know there’s a good backup option ready to go in AAA.

  3. modellforprez - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    No matter what happens we are confident Neal will screw it up. now he has made some nice strides dont get me wrong but Cole is as good as gone at least for a little while until one of the others get hurt. Now one way to not screw this up is NOT trading the farm for calro stanton. Not Blanco Not Taillon and Not Bell, Sanchez or any stars for a 2-3 year rent a player those guys or at least some of them are the future dont blow it now. Figure out a different way to fix right field which needs a bat so bad i can see why they would be tempted. but dont risk the future we dont have top picks anymore.

    • steelpenbucs87 - Jun 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      …. what?

      You slander NH in the first sentence, and then go on to name 5 different players he’s brought into the organization over the past few years (Cole, Taillon, POLANCO, Josh Bell, and Tony Sanchez) in reference to a trade for GIANCARLO Stanton, who the Marlins’ haven’t even said they would trade.

      Anywho, you send Cole down for a few starts so that you can keep him out of Super 2 contention, and you bring him back up when rosters expand and you see what you’ve actually got. My guess is barring injury that at the end of the year you’ll see Burnett-Wandy-Liriano-Locke-Cole.

  4. ivanoiurares40 - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Reblogged this on TheSlashDash.

  5. 13arod - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    At least move him to the bullpen

  6. ottomanismydog - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    The Pirates don’t have anything to lose by implementing a 6 man rotation through the All-Star game. Gives the entire staff the extra day of rest that can help the team get through July and into August. After the All-Star game make a move to free up the roster spot to keep Cole pitching in the Bigs.

    It makes good ‘business sense’ in the culture of maximizing profit at the expense of the customer. That business sense line came from the top of the organization, Nutting might as well said it himself. Keeping Cole down allows the club to save money over the long term plain and simple. The Pirates will always trip over a dollar, to make a dime.

  7. steelers88 - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    I wouldn’t really be that surprised if Cole gets sent down for the rest of the year. Yes he is 3-0 but I don’t think his ready his breaking balls are well not that great he needs to work on that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him again until the 2015 season. The reason why I think this is A.J. Burnett will want to comeback next year if the Pirates finish with a winning record or make the playoffs. I also think Wandy Roudrigez will take the $14 million dollar player option in his contract. Jeff Locke isn’t going anywhere, neither is Liriano, and Morton looks way better.

  8. steelers88 - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    I wonder what the Pirates would get in a trade for Gerrit Cole?

  9. redridershoottheireyeout - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    the “business sense” of baseball should be about winning baseball games when you can instead of hedging your bets and trying to hold a guy back, it hasn’t worked with Joba Chamberlain or Steven Strasburg, keep Cole right where he is but skip a few starts just in case for the hopeful eventual (I don’t want to type it lest I jinx what hope happens after two woeful decades)

  10. steelers88 - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    There is no doubt Gerrit Cole will be sent down the Pirates just don’t need him this year or next year the next time I would expect to see him is in the 2015 season.

  11. foreverchipper10 - Jun 24, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    If Wandy and AJ come back healthy and Charlie Morton is pitching well then there is no spot for Cole……until September. The kid will finish the season in the bigs whether it is an iinjury or ineffective starter that gets there or not. Sending him down for a bit if and when all starters are healthy is the smart business decision.

    • apkyletexas - Jun 24, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      With this staff, there’s no way they make it to September without another injury. If Cole goes back down, he’ll be needed by August at the latest, maybe even before the end of July.

  12. steelers88 - Jun 24, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    You can’t send a guy down for the rest of the year than bring him up in September for a playoff run. That’s to much pressure for a rookie. If your going to bring him up he has to be a reliever.

    • apkyletexas - Jun 24, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      Nah – every one of his starts has been a big sellout and a media circus, and he’s faced off against two recent Cy Young winners and a Cy Young runner up. He hasn’t shown any signs of cracking at all – he’s a cool customer.

  13. soberlyf - Jun 24, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Not sure what some of you are talking about but Cole has already shown he’s better than Morton and deserves his spot in the rotation. Morton has a career 5 ERA, 1.55 WHIP courtesy of his love for the free pass, 200 walks/316 K’s, an abysmal .290 BAA…and he can’t get out of the 6th inning…maybe the worst stat since the Bucks bullpen is their Achilles Heel..Locke could be 13-2 this season, instead of 6-1. Cole is ready now, he has plus heat, he walks no one, he beat Greinke, Weaver and Lincecum…he has plenty of innings to spend and he’s got the hot hand…Morton doesn’t…never has in the show.

    • apkyletexas - Jun 25, 2013 at 12:39 AM

      Charlie Morton is coming off 18 months of torn labrum surgery followed by Tommy John surgery, and the Pirates have invested an incredible amount of time in him over the years. They aren’t going to throw in the towel now that he’s finally throwing well again and is able to win some games for them.

      They might give him a bunch of innings and try to use him as trade bait later this summer, or they might eventually try him out in the bullpen. But I don’t believe for a second they are ready to dump him after all they went through to get him to this point.

  14. mazblast - Jun 25, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    I’ve been a Pirates fan since 1963. I’ve been through the good, the bad, and now 20 years of ugly. Making the playoffs would be nice, but all I really want is an end to this streak. 85 wins would suit me just fine. Cole is the most likely guy to make a big difference and get the team there. Enough with planning for 3-4 years down the road. Keep him with the major league team, let’s finish over .500, contend next year, and to heck with “Super 2″!

  15. steelers88 - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Have you looked at Charlie Morton’s numbers? Here is what Cole’s stats are ERA=3.44 IP=18.1 H=18 HR=1 BB=1 SO=8 WHIP=1.36. Here is what. Morton’s stats are ERA=2.81 IP=16.0 H=14 HR=0 BB=6 SO=12 WHIP=1.25. Morton has been the better pitcher so far and he deserves the 5th spot.

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