Pittsburgh Pirates in Review 7/27 – 8/2

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

Keone Kela…Chris Archer…a record of 56-53…what just happened and what did you do to the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates!?

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. The good, the bad, and the ugly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s the theme of this series – shout out to the Italian man himself,  Francisco Cervelli, for the inspiration. Let’s jump into the week that was!

The good and the bad sections will be self-explanatory, looking at both the good and the bad of the week. The ugly will simply be a section that covers all of the other random notes of importance from the week.

The Good

The Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely dominated at the trade deadline this year, acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher, and the best relief pitcher on the market. This was a huge surprise and a large departure from the norm for the Pirates. Even though the Pirates parted with multiple high-level prospects, Neal Huntington managed to hold onto Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ top prospect. If Huntington had told me before the trade deadline started that the Pirates were going to get the two best pitchers on the market without trading Keller, I would have never believed him.

Keone Kela (KEY-oh-nee KELL-uh) is the former closer for the Texas Rangers and was acquired by the Pirates for top ten prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named later. Kela owns a 3.44 ERA this season with a 2.97 FIP that suggests that his ERA should be lower. In addition, Kela has converted 24 out of his 25 save opportunities this season for the Rangers. Kela’s power arm has struck out an average of 11 batters per 9 innings throughout his career, and from what I have read, Kela’s metrics are only trending upwards. The best part of this deal is that Kela is signed through 2021 and will be a part of the Pirates bullpen for many years to come. With the addition of Kela, the Pirates have one of the best, if not the best bullpen backend in the MLB.

Chris Archer is a former starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and was arguably the most valuable player available via trade during the trade deadline period. The Pirates won the Chris Archer bidding war by offering top prospect Austin Meadows, relief pitcher Tyler Glasnow, and a player to be named later. The Rays were clearly interested in prospects that have already developed and have at least some experience in the MLB – which favored the Pirates and their current depth in the outfield and in the bullpen (or at least a depth of talent in the bullpen, not necessarily performance).

Archer’s Upside

Chris Archer has a career 3.69 ERA in the MLB over five and a half seasons and averages 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. Even though Archer’s ERA sits at 4.31, his strikeout rate, raw talent, competitive nature, and metrics point towards am ERA lower than 4.00. In addition, the Archer and the Rays are in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees, two of the most predominate offensive powerhouses in the league. The Pirates are betting that Archer’s numbers improve when he arrives in Pittsburgh and pitches in the NL Central. I actually really like that bet.

On top of all of this, Archer is known for his incredible personality and his love for community service. Just like Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen, the Pittsburgh Pirates have landed a player that will give back to the team and the community on a daily basis. Archer is genuinely a good guy, and if you don’t believe me, here is a video of his first interview as a Pirate.

Putting numbers aside, Neal Huntington did an incredible job at showing his support for this year’s club. Immediately after the trades, social media was lighting up with different Pirates’ players and their comments about how excited they were for this playoff run.

The most interesting part about these trades is the possible signaling of a new era under Huntington. Previous to this trade deadline, Huntington has only parted with top ten prospects to help dump salary. At this deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates did a complete 180, trading away three top ten prospects (or former top ten prospects) and potentially more (depending on the players to be named). I think that this tells fans that the Pirates have learned from their past mistakes and are willing to adapt their mindset. Yes, trying to win every year will still be the goal, but let’s adapt that slightly and still attempt to go all the way with this window of opportunity. These thoughts can be reconciled through trading for controllable players, which is exactly what Huntington did. Even if the Pirates don’t win this season, they still have two years of Kela and three years of Archer.

The Bad

There is not much to talk about in the bad section this week, but it should be noted that the Pittsburgh Pirates ended up splitting a four-game series with the Mets. You really wanted to see the Pirates take three out of four games here with the Mets being one of the worst teams in the MLB.

It’s unsurprising that the Pirates struggled to close the series against the Mets, or the two-game series against the Cubs, with all of the injuries that the Pirates are going through. The lineup that the Pirates have been using includes the names of Sean Rodriguez, Jordan Luplow, Jose Osuna, and Nick Kingham. Some of these players are and will be fantastic players for the Pirates, but they are not the players that you want in your everyday lineup or rotation during a playoff race.

Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson were two of the Pirates’ hottest batters before they went down with injuries. Expect the Pirates to get them back into the lineup as soon as possible, potentially as early as the games against the Cardinals. After his initial debut, Nick Kingham is showing signs that he is not quite ready to pitch at the highest level during a playoff race. Chad Kuhl has been sorely missed. Thankfully, the Pirates have addressed Chad Kuhl’s spot in the rotation with Chris Archer.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to need to play baseball at an extremely high level if they are going to make the playoffs this season, getting the team healthy is the first step in that process.

The Ugly

A few weeks ago I began to push the idea that the Pirates should look at signing Corey Dickerson long-term. With the recent trade of Austin Meadows, it seems like Huntington could be thinking in the same direction. For a few years now, the MLB market has been favoring pitching, while slowly lowering the cost of signing outfielders. I do believe it will be possible for the Pirates to sign Dickerson, even in an affordable manner.

David Freese is looking like a fantastic signing for the Pirates. Freese is hitting .286/.350/.456/.806 during the 2018 campaign. Over the last seven days, Freese is hitting over .400 with a 1.200+ OPS. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates move forward with the Colin Moran – David Freese backlog at third base – both are playing well. In addition, Trevor Williams has pitched 17 scoreless innings in a row for the Pirates over the course of his last three starts. This is an amazing stretch of pitching and has helped the Pirates win multiple games.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will need more players like David Freese and Trevor Williams to step up if the Bucs are going to get through the month of August. The good news is that there are going to be a lot of exciting, meaningful baseball games in August for the Pirates. The bad news is that the team only plays two games against an opponent with a losing record during the entire month. Check out the Pirates’ upcoming schedule in August here.

That’s all for this week. Let’s go Bucs!

The Pittsburgh Pirates week ahead:

August 3rd – Cardinals @ the Pirates 7:05

4th – Cardinals @ the Pirates 7:05

5th – Cardinals @ the Pirates 1:35

August 6th – Pirates @ the Rockies 8:40

7th – Pirates @ the Rockies 8:40

8th – Pirates @ the Rockies 3:10