You know, Cole is a free agent in 2 years, has made it clear he is not signing an extension in Pittsburgh, FA compensation rules have been watered down, and Cole just posted a 101 ERA+ (and 4 of his 5 career seasons are within 10% of that mark). That doesn't necessarily mean this is a good trade, but a lot of people seem to judging it on Cole's reputation rather than his on-field contributions. And ignoring the fact that Pittsburgh was running out of time to hope those two things came into better alignment in a meaningful way.
This is a really good point, Cole might not be much more than a league average starter, which is still quite valuable at those salaries, but not a difference maker. It seems they could have gotten less pieces, but one better piece from the Yankees, I wonder if that would have been a better way to go.
Overall just a strange market, with very few teams legitimately trying to buy. I wonder if this is the new way or just kind of a fluke of the competitive cycle. I suppose it is "smarter" but I don't know if it is better.