MLB notes: Astros acquire Gerrit Cole from Pirates in five-player trade

The World Series champion Houston Astros have boosted their rotation with another big arm, acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a five-player trade.

The deal was announced Saturday. The Pirates got right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin for their ace.

Cole will join former Cy Young Award winners Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander on a team that just won its first championship.

Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA last season. The 27-year-old righty was the overall No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and a 2015 All-Star with the Pirates.

“We expect him to bounce back and be a Cy Young contender,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The New York Yankees had been among the teams mentioned in recent trade speculation involving Cole. There hadn't been a lot of movement this winter on baseball's hot stove, but this deal could get things cooking.

Chris Archer, Michael Fulmer, Matt Harvey and other prominent starters have had their names tossed around in recent swap speculation.

Cole tied for the NL lead with 33 starts, was third in innings (203) and 10th in strikeouts (196). He is 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in five major league seasons, including 19-8 in 2015.

“This move gives us a better chance over the next two years to repeat and hopefully get another championship,” Luhnow said.

On Friday, Cole and the Pirates reached agreement on a one-year contract worth $6.75 million. He had one year of arbitration remaining and was likely to command a huge raise in 2019, one of the reasons the Pirates had considered trading him.

“Trading Gerrit Cole was not an easy decision. We are very appreciative for what Gerrit has done for our team and organization, especially his important role on the 2013-15 playoff teams,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.

“Acquiring these four quality young players, three of whom we project to be an important part of our 2018 team, with many years of potential contribution, is an important step for us as we work toward bringing playoff baseball back to our fans,” he said.

Etc.

All-Star closer Brad Hand and the San Diego Padres have agreed to a three-year contraction extension reportedly worth $19.75 million, pending the left-hander passing a physical. The Padres say the deal was reached Saturday. It includes a fourth-year option. Hand went 3-4 with 21 saves and a 2.16 ERA last season. He's been mentioned in trade talk since last summer. … Outfielder-first baseman Scott Van Slyke has signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins after spending the past six seasons with the Dodgers. … The Detroit Tigers have agreed to a one-year, $6.05-million contract with third baseman Nicholas Castellanos, avoiding arbitration. The Tigers also reached one-year deals with right-handers Alex Wilson ($1,925,000) and Shane Greene ($1.95 million). Shortstop Jose Iglesias is still eligible for arbitration. He is asking for $6.8 million and the team is offering $5.6 million. …

Closer Alex Colome and All-Star designated hitter/outfielder Corey Dickerson are among seven players who agreed to one-year contracts with the Tampa Bay Rays, avoiding salary arbitration. Infielders Matt Duffy and Brad Miller, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., catcher Jesus Sucre and relief pitcher Dan Jennings also reached terms before Friday's deadline for players and teams to exchange proposed salaries for next season. … The Kansas City Royals agreed with reliever Kelvin Herrera and starter Nate Karns on one-year contracts Friday to avoid arbitration, leaving reliever Brandon Maurer as their only player still on track for a hearing next month. Herrera will make $7,937,500, an increase from $5,325,000. He would get a $50,000 bonus if he's an All-Star, which he was in 2015 and 2016.

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