Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports spoke to a source who said there was "no deal" for Cole and that Jon Morosi of MLB Network's report of a trade was a "false rumor." Morosi had previously noted a deal was a "imminent."
Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle spoke to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who would only say that he's "talked to several teams about possible trades" but said "nothing is imminent."
While Cole's value is apparent given his 3.50 career ERA, he is also under team control through the 2019 season, per Spotrac. Any eventual deal would not be a one-year rental, and any trade partner would land a proven arm who is just 27 years old.
Cole turned heads in 2015 when he made the All-Star Game and posted sparkling numbers. He finished with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 32 starts and 208 innings, all of which were career bests. He helped lead the Pirates to the postseason, but he coughed up four earned runs in five innings during a loss against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game.
Cole also contributed to Pittsburgh's 2013 postseason run, making two October starts as a rookie. He didn't flinch under the pressure and posted a 2.45 ERA in those contests.
However, the right-handed hurler has slipped some in the last two years. He finished with a career-worst 4.26 ERA in 2017 and career-worst 1.44 WHIP in 2016.
From Pittsburgh's perspective, losing someone of Cole's caliber would be difficult to swallow, especially as a smaller-market team that doesn't always attract marquee free agents. However, the Pirates may not be able to re-sign him when he eventually hits free agency, so a trade would ensure they land something in return for the ace.
The Pirates aren't realistic World Series contenders this year, so any return pieces would help restock the organization as it builds toward the future.
If Houston could eventually make a deal for Cole, it would then turn its attention toward its World Series defense with another formidable pitcher in tow.
The possibility of his serving in a rotation with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel in a playoff series should worry the American League. Houston could have the upper hand in as many as five or six starts in a best-of-seven series if Cole eventually joins the roster.