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Rumor Central: Will the Astros pursue Gerrit Cole?

Gerrit Cole would be a prime bargaining chip for the Pirates if they decide to sell at the trade deadline. Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Houston Astros already own the best record in the major leagues at 29-12, but that may not stop them from pursuing some marquee pitching talent this summer.

Rumor CentralKen Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Astros are interested in adding a starting pitcher and a left-handed reliever before the July 31 trade deadline and are “intrigued” by starter Gerrit Cole and closer Tony Watson of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates (17-23) are in last place in the NL Central, and there is speculation they might look to rebuild sooner than later. A prime bargaining chip would be the 26-year-old Cole, who owns a 3.20 ERA over four-plus seasons.

If traded to the Astros, Cole, who is making $3.75 million in 2017 and is arbitration eligible for two more seasons, would join a Houston rotation that already includes Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.

The Astros are also looking to add another left-hander to a bullpen that currently features just one southpaw in Tony Sipp. Watson, a lefty, has eight saves in nine chances with a 1.62 ERA this season.

Rosenthal cautions that no trade is expected soon, adding that the asking price for Cole would be “exorbitant.”

ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Astros 12th in his preseason farm system rankings, so Houston would presumably have some attractive prospects to offer.

Cole has previously been mentioned as a possible fit for the New York Yankees.

-- Doug Mittler