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The Pirates string of losing seasons is over — now what?

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They still need one more win for their first winning season since 1992, but that’s inevitable. The Pirates did, however, put and end to their streak of losing seasons last night, notching their 81st win.

At this point it’s probably worth noting that when the Pirates completed their last winning season, “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” Cheers,” “Designing Women” and “Coach” were top TV shows, Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Kriss Kross had the biggest hits in the nation and this 40 year-old man was still living in a college dorm. Some of you were not even born. It’s been a long time.

The question now: what constitutes the next step of success for the Pirates? Or, rather, what will render this breakthrough season a disappointment?

If they fail to win the division and only get the wild card, is that bad, or are Pirates fans happy? What if they lose the wild card game? More broadly speaking, was .500 always a goal for you, Pirates fans, and the rest gravy, or are you living in the moment and the moment alone, desiring a long playoff run and anticipating disappointment if that does not come to pass?

Kind of an abstract question, I guess. I’m thinking back to 1991 when the Braves broke through after close to a decade of stinking (and nothing but stinking in the time I had been watching and cheering for them). I recall feeling a lot of “happy to be here” feelings as the season wore down and the playoffs sank in as reality. But I also remember all of that happy to be here stuff disappearing as soon as the NLCS actually began and things got real. Of course I still sting over the World Series, which was one deke and baserunning gaffe away from a Braves success. If you can’t be unequivocally happy being that close to winning it all you aren’t treating your team’s surprise success any differently than fans of teams with a long rich recent history of the stuff.

I feel like most Pirates fans will feel the same way. Maybe some high fives and victory laps this week and into next, but then the serious business of winning the division and making a run in October will take precedence. Lack of success in this regard will thus be felt just as strongly by you as it will be by Cardinals or Red Sox fans who have had all kinds of success in recent years.

But tell me if I’m wrong.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.