Given their track records, it's entirely possible that a deal was agreed to in principle, or that it was imminent, and that something changed afterwards, in time for Jeff Passan - who is as reliable as those two - to be able to swoop in with his own source saying no such deal was almost complete.
Cole went 12-12 in 33 starts with the Pirates last season, and he posted a 4.26 earned run average (ERA) to go with 196 strikeouts in 203 innings pitched. Cole signs a $6.75 million deal with Pittsburgh for 2018 to avoid arbitration in his second eligible year. But, the monetary amount of his new contract is almost $1 million less than projected.
What this means outside of remembering who you can believe is that a Cole to the Astros deal is still very much a possibility.
Gerrit Cole was finalization away from being on the Astros, until word came in that this wasn't true at all, and not only was nothing imminent, but it wasn't even confirmed if Cole to the Astros was truly in the works or just a possibility like any other January rumor. However, two days later, everything remains silent on both fronts.
According to Passan, left fielder Derek Fisher's name was mentioned as a potential return for Cole, and he said the Astros would likely have to ship top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker or pitcher Forrest Whitley to the Pirates as well as the centerpiece of the package.
On Friday, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted the Cubs joined the New York Yankees and Houston Astros as clubs in talks with the Buccos about the 2015 All-Star selection. Even though NY is still rumored to be in the running for the starter, the Yankees held their breath watching Houston almost steal Cole out from under their noses.