Pirates acquire Chris Archer in surprising trade with Rays

The Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off a surprising trade just before Tuesday’s deadline, acquiring pitcher Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays for top prospects Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow.

Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan confirmed the deal was completed and reported the impressive return for Tampa Bay.

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Momentum toward a deal started picking up over the weekend when it became clear Tampa Bay was more open to trading Archer. The asking price remained high, but the Pirates met it.

Archer, 29, was among the few true frontline pitchers available. Making him more appealing to inquiring teams is the fact he’s under control for another three seasons and will cost only $27.5 million. The Rays realized teams will pay more for more control, so it made sense for them to dive in.

Archer isn’t having his strongest season. He finished April with a 6.61 ERA, but has since lowered that to 4.31. Through 17 starts, he’s posted 102 strikeouts over 96 innings. He also missed five weeks with an abdominal muscle issue, but has been remarkably durable over his career. He made at least 32 starts every season between 2014 and 2017.

Does Chris Archer make sense for the Pirates?

For Archer, this feels like a lateral move to what many would consider the National League’s version of the Rays. From Pittsburgh’s standpoint, it fills the void atop their rotation following the offseason trade of Gerrit Cole to Houston.

Another key for Pittsburgh is control and affordability. Archer is set to make $7.6 million next season, which is quite a bargain for a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Archer then has team options for $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021, meaning Pittsburgh could retain him for more than three seasons at a great rate even for them.

The cost was steep. Both Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow were considered top prospects before graduating to the big leagues. With Pittsburgh not seemingly positioned to seriously contend this season, it’s easy to question why they would part with two potential building blocks now.

In Archer, they clearly feel they’ve added a foundation in which that building will be constructed. Whether it works out will be determined in the years ahead.

Tampa Bay Rays trade ace Chris Archer to the Pirates. (AP)
Tampa Bay Rays trade ace Chris Archer to the Pirates. (AP)

What does this trade mean for the Rays?

The Rays get younger and deeper with this deal, and of course the payroll gets a little lighter too. It’s the same pattern we’re used to with the Rays, who now only have $10 million committed to their payroll next season.

Archer is certainly one of the biggest names they’ve dealt. The big return helps justify it in this case.

Meadows, 23, might be the top prospect to be moved at this deadline. He spent some time in Pittsburgh earlier this season, hitting .292/.327/.468 slash over 165 plate appearances. His power game hasn’t developed yet, but Meadows has impressed with his ability to use the entire field and handle both right-handed and left-handed pitching. He figures to be a Rays regular right away.

Glasnow, 25, hasn’t quite turned the corner yet in his development. He’s a big talent with a good mix of pitches and an aggressive approach. However, his command has let him down at times. He’s yet to receive a real chance to start consistently in the big leagues. That opportunity might be what finally helps him get over the hump.

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