Sometimes, when you know you need to talk about terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things, it’s best to lay the matter out simply.
And so I will do so here.
On July 31, 2018, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows, and eventually pitcher Shane Baz to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for pitcher Chris Archer.
In the time since then, Glasnow and Meadows have been shining stars for the Rays, and Baz shows signs of being one, having made his MLB debut this year. Archer ... has not been. Alternately—and sometimes simultaneously—he was injured or ineffective. He compiled a 6-12 record with a 4.92 ERA in his Pirates career. He last pitched for the Bucs in 2019. Even if COVID hadn’t disrupted the 2020 season, he wouldn’t have been there as he was recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. On October 30 of that year, the Pirates cut him loose. He went back to the Rays, where he continues to struggle with injuries.
The motivation behind the trade was that then-general manager Neal Huntington believed that Archer would be the missing puzzle piece that would get the Pirates into the postseason that year. It takes some supreme confidence—or delusion—to look at a pitcher who had never won more than 12 games in a season, only had double-digit wins three times, and continually battled injuries throughout his major league career and think, “ah, there’s our savior!”
At the time, though, Glasnow wasn’t pitching that well under the Ray Searage regime (let’s be honest, almost no one did). Meadows had played in 49 games and compiled a .292/.327/.468 slash line and a .795 OPS. Baz, of course, was Huntington’s favorite thing, a tradeable prospect.
As for Archer himself, he had this to say in February 2020, to Trib Live:
“I feel like the biggest thing is health, man. The first six years in Tampa, I was healthy. You can look at my numbers.”
As the kids say, wait, WHAT?! Numbers don’t lie, Chris. Yes, when you were healthy, you were good. You weren’t going to be the next coming of Bob Gibson, but you were competent. But you weren’t healthy that often, my dude. You’re not the first athlete to have your professional career derailed by injury, and you won’t be the last, but a lot of Pirates fans’ goodwill towards you went out the window when you made that idiotic statement.
The Rays have repeatedly shown that they know how to develop talent. The Pirates have repeatedly demonstrated that they don’t. Unfortunately, it was easier in the Huntington era to offload underperforming players than to consider why they’re underperforming. I think that will change now that Ben Cherington’s here because his track record at Boston and Toronto speaks for itself, but for Bucs fans, this trade is just one of many knives that Huntington plunged into their collective hearts during his time at the wheel of the Pirate Ship.