The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Chris Archer at the 2018 trade deadline, but discussions have once again risen recently about the swap. The trade isn't as bad as you may remember.
The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays at the 2018 trade deadline, sending prospects Austin Meadows, Shane Baz, and young right-hander Tyler Glasnow back for Archer. The trade has recently resurfaced on Pirates Twitter, mainly because of this tweet here:
Of course, many are quick to jump the gun and say the Archer trade is the worst trade the Pirates have ever made. I am not here to tell you the Archer trade was good, or the Pirates actually won the swap. That would be a straight-faced lie. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not nearly as bad as you may remember it being.
Archer struggled with the Pirates. In 2019, he pitched 119 innings and had a 5.19 ERA, 5.02 FIP, and 1.41 WHIP. He had a healthy 27.2% strikeout rate, but that’s where the positives end. His 10.5% walk rate was below average, but batters demolished Archer.
His HR/9 rate was 1.88 while having a 9.9% opponent barrel rate. Archer missed all of 2020 due to thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. But he would not return to the mound as a Pirate as he was bought out at the end of the ‘20 campaign.
But while Archer struggled, many seem to have stopped following baseball after 2019. Meadows got off to a great start to his Rays tenure, batting .291/.364/.558 with a .380 wOBA and 144 wRC+ through 591 plate appearances. Meadows popped 33 home runs with a .268 isolated slugging percentage. On top of that, he had an above-average 9.1% walk rate and 22.2% strikeout rate.
Meadows continued to be a solid hitter but was not nearly as productive as he was in 2019. In 2021, he had the same number of trips to the plate but batted .234/.315/.458 with a 112 wRC+. He hit 27 home runs with a 10% walk rate and 20.6% strikeout rate. But he split his time in left field and at DH. Considering he was a negative defensive outfielder when he played the field with -4 defensive runs saved and -4 outs above average, and his good but not great bat, Meadows only had +1.6 fWAR.
Glasnow meanwhile was good when he pitched for the Rays. He owned a 3.20 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP for Tampa. He struck out 34% of the batters he faced with a quality 7.8% walk rate and solid 1.14 HR/9. But the thing is, Glasnow was never healthy for Tampa. 2023 was his healthiest Major League season yet, and he still only pitched 120 innings. He pitched in four 162-game seasons for the Devil Rays and topped 100 innings a single time. He averaged +1.4 bWAR a season, less than a half-win more valuable a year than Martin Perez.
Then there’s Shane Baz, who was a player to be named later. Baz’s MLB career has spanned 40.1 innings since 2021. Over the last two seasons, Baz has only pitched 40 innings between the Majors (13) and minor leagues (27) as he underwent Tommy John surgery. Baz has not pitched in over a season now, will be going into his age-25 campaign, and the most innings he’s ever tossed in one year is 92.
Before someone else brings it up, yes, I know I had said that this could be the worst trade in Pirates' history. Of course, I no longer hold that opinion. That was an opinion I stated in very early 2020, March to be specific.
None of this is to say this was a good trade for the Bucs. It wasn’t. The Pirates got the short end of the stick. But let’s not act like it was as horrible as some have said. The Pirates’ current situation wouldn’t be significantly better now than it would have been if they didn’t make this trade.
Sure, Baz would be nice to have in the system right now, but he’s far from a sure thing after all of his injuries. Plus if the Pirates want a third of this trade back, they can go and sign Austin Meadows right now. The Rays traded him to the Detroit Tigers for Isaac Parades where he only played 42 games with a .655 OPS. He probably shouldn’t cost anything beyond a minor league deal at this point.