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Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported earlier Friday that Cole and the Pirates came to terms on a one-year, $ 6.75 million deal to avoid arbitration.
Now the question is whether the 27-year-old right-hander, who’s under team control through 2019, will stay in Pittsburgh after signing the contract. He’s been frequently mentioned in the rumor mill throughout the offseason, with the Yankees and Astros the two most commonly discussed destinations.
Cole is coming off a down year by his typically high standards. He posted a career-high 4.26 ERA across 33 starts in 2017. His peripheral numbers were more in line with his career averages, however, with a 1.25 WHIP and 196 strikeouts in 203 innings.
His 3.81 xFIP (via FanGraphs) also suggests he was a victim of some bad luck, largely based on a major uptick in his home run-to-fly ball ratio.
Cole was one of the best starters in baseball during his 2015 All-Star campaign, when he finished the year with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 202 punchouts in 208 innings.
In Chicago, he’d join an already star-studded roster to form one of the league’s deepest rotations alongside Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood. Whether the Cubs have the assets to outbid the Yanks or ‘Stros is uncertain, though.