Pittsburgh Pirates: Recapping the Last Three Trade Deadlines

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 28: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 28, 2019 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 8-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 28: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 28, 2019 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 8-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

2018

This trade deadline was extremely active for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Whether or not that’s a good thing now is up for you to decide.

The Pirates were buyers at this deadline, believing that they could go for a playoff run, being 6.0 games out of first place in the division and 3.0 out of a Wild Card spot. This was because of an 11 game winning streak that ended up being pretty much false hope.

The big one we all know about is the Chris Archer deal. At the time, his 2018 numbers didn’t really look much different from his 2016-2017 numbers. Before being sent to Pittsburgh, the former Rays’ ace had a 4.31 ERA, but a 3.62 FIP, 3.63 xFIP, and 3.48 SIERA. All told, he really looked like a change-of-scenery candidate. He still had a strong strikeout rate of 24.7%, wasn’t walking a whole lot of batters with a 7.5% walk rate, and had a 1.03 HR/9.

Another change-of-scenery candidate seemed to be Tyler Glasnow. The Pittsburgh Pirates had seen Glasnow struggle as a starter in both 2016 and 2017, so he was exclusively used out of the bullpen in 2018. He had pretty similar numbers to Archer, with a 4.31 ERA, but 3.62 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, and 3.64 SIERA.

But Glasnow wasn’t the only piece going to Tampa Bay. Along with Glasnow, Austin Meadows would also be going to Florida. Meadows was a former top 10 prospect, who was batting a solid .292/.327/.468 with a 116 OPS+ with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, this was after a slump that was caused by him receiving less playing time with the return of Corey Dickerson from the IL.

The last and final piece to the puzzle was 2017 first-round pick Shane Baz, who was a player to be named later. Baz had entered the 2018 season as a top 100 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and Baseball Prospectus. Through 45.1 innings at Rookie-Ball, Baz had a 3.97 ERA and 3.90 FIP, mainly caused by his 11.1% walk rate. Still, he struck out 26.1% of the batters he faced and allowed just 2 long balls.

Though Glasnow was really good in 2019, having a 1.78 ERA, 2.26 FIP, and 0.89 WHIP, while striking out 33% of the batters he faced, allowing just 6.1% of batters to reach via free pass, and giving up 4 long balls, the jury is still out on Glasnow. He was injured for most of 2019, pitching in only 12 games and 60.2 innings, and has so far struggled through 2020.

But Meadows looked like he could be a future MVP candidate in 2019. Through 591 plate appearance, the outfielder batted .291/.364/.558 with 33 long balls, a dozen stolen bases, and finished with a 142 wRC+/144 OPS+. Meadows split his time between the corner outfield and DH. Though he was a poor defensive right fielder, he seems to have found his home in left field as in the last two years in left field, Meadows has +4 DRS, a 15.5 UZR/150, 1.5 range runs above average, and 2 outfield arm runs above average.

Baz now ranks as the 117th best prospect in baseball, and the Rays’ 7th best prospect, which is pretty good considering they are a consensus top-3 farm system. Archer, meanwhile, has pitched a total of 172 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates, putting up a 4.92 ERA, 4.71 FIP and 1.39 WHIP. While he did carry over a strong strikeout rate of 27%, he’s seen his walk rate jump to 9.7% and his HR/9 skyrocket to 1.7. Archer’s tenure with the Pirates is now likely over as he had to undergo thoracic outlet surgery and will miss the entirety of the 2020 season.

While this was the biggest trade they made, one that really slipped under the radar at the time was when they acquired Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers. Kela had served as the Rangers’ closer before the trade, and was pretty effective. Through 36.2 innings of work, Kela had a 3.44 ERA, but a much cleaner 2.97 FIP and 1.14 WHIP. Kela was great at limiting the long ball, allowing just 3 home runs, pretty good considering how hitter friendly the Rangers’ home ball park was. Though Kela had a 9.2% walk rate, he struck out batters at a 28.9% rate.

The Pirates sent left hander Taylor Hearn to the Rangers. Hearn was putting up some pretty solid numbers at double-A before the trade. In the 104 innings he pitched, Hearn had a 3.12 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 1.08 WHIP. Hearn had a 25.2% strikeout rate, and strong .5 HR/9 rate. Hearn made his major league debut in 2019, and is part of the Rangers’ bullpen in 2020, but he’s only pitched 8 innings at the Major League level.

However, there was a player to be named later included in this deal that turned out to be Sherten Apostel. Apostel is a corner infield prospect. He was doing really well at Rookie-Ball at the time of the trade, having a .259/.406/.460 line through 175 plate appearances, but has since risen to be the Rangers 9th best prospect per FanGraphs.

Kela has been really solid for the Pittsburgh Pirates since his arrival. He currently has a 2.49 ERA, 3.53 FIP and 1.04 WHIP with the Bucs, including a 30.7% strikeout rate, and 8.9% walk rate. But the issue has been staying healthy. He’s only pitched a total of 47 innings with the Pirates since the trade, as he missed most of September in 2018, nearly all of the first half of 2019, and nearly the first month of 2020. All told, this is probably a trade deadline the Pirates would probably like to forget.

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