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Breaking down Archer trade with final piece set

August 14, 2018

With the news that right-hander Shane Baz is the third, and final, player going to Tampa Bay in the Chris Archer deal, we can now take a closer look at the Deadline trade that took nearly everyone by surprise. It wasn't a shock that Archer was dealt -- that seemed

With the news that right-hander Shane Baz is the third, and final, player going to Tampa Bay in the Chris Archer deal, we can now take a closer look at the Deadline trade that took nearly everyone by surprise. It wasn't a shock that Archer was dealt -- that seemed like a foregone conclusion -- but that it was the Pirates on the receiving end certainly was unexpected.
:: Complete prospect coverage ::
The price was significant even before it was learned that Baz, the team's first-round pick in 2017, was the player to be named. Adding him in means the Pirates sent two former Top 100 prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows along with a current one. (Baz is No. 95 on the current list.) The big question, of course, is: Did Pittsburgh give up too much to help its big league rotation?
Some of that depends on what you think the trio of young players the Rays got back will become. Putting Baz aside for a moment, because he's so far away, let's take a closer look at Glasnow and Meadows, both of whom graduated off of the top of the Top 100 over the last two seasons.
Any Pirates fan will tell you that Glasnow has been tantalizing at best, a frustrating enigma at worst. As he's shown in his three outings with the Rays since the trade, his stuff plays at the big league level. He misses a ton of bats and still very much has the upside of a frontline starter. Whether he does so will depend entirely on his command, something he's had with Tampa Bay thus far, but has been very elusive since his big league debut in 2016. One key to determining who "wins" this trade will be if Glasnow reaches his ceiling or ends up being a (very valuable) reliever. It should be noted, however, that despite the inconsistencies, Glasnow has outperformed Archer according to WAR, 0.5 to 0.3, in 2018.

Meadows' path to the big leagues was slowed several times by injuries, yet he still made his debut at age 23. He started out like a house on fire, hitting .409/.426/.795 over his first 13 games in May. That dipped to .260/.310/.377 in June and fell even further (.212/.235/.242) in 13 sporadic games in July before he got sent down. He did show enough to make a team like Tampa Bay feel comfortable that he's ready to contribute on a full-time basis, though he's still down in Triple-A. His tools are still all there and it will be very interesting to see if the power that was on display early in his debut shows up more consistently as he gets more time in Tampa Bay. Again, there are some question marks here and how the outfielder continues to develop could tilt the scales further in the Rays' direction.

OK, now back to Baz. The Pirates took him No. 12 overall as one of the better all-around high school arms in the 2017 Draft class. Many teams liked him because he seemed to provide an exciting combination of stuff and feel for pitching, something not often seen from prep arms. Given that, he's been a little slower to develop than expected.
The Pirates have often been aggressive with assignments for the high school pitching they draft, a fairly common occurrence. Even if there are strict pitch and innings limits in place, they often go to full-season West Virginia for that first full year of pro ball. Jameson Taillon followed that path, for instance, and Baz seemed to fit the profile of the kind of arm who could do that. Instead, he hung back in Extended Spring Training before going to the Appalachian League, where he'd been good, but not great, this summer.
This isn't a knock on Baz. Top Pirates prospect Mitch Keller took the half-step to the Appy League as well and is close to knocking on the big league door. It's just being pointed out to show perhaps one reason why the Pirates were willing to part with a first-round pick so quickly. Even if Baz does blossom into a very good pitching prospect, he's so far away, it's a bit easier to part with him.
People in Pittsburgh have expressed some displeasure over the amount the Pirates gave up to get Archer. Ironically, some are assuredly the same people who complained about this management never going for the big trade to help the big league club team out. Perhaps the concern over what the Pirates gave up is warranted, but you can't have it both ways, folks.
Archer's value has been well-documented. Maybe he's not the frontline starter some want him to be, but he's an established big leaguer, one who had 200-plus innings in each of the three previous years. Beyond that, with years of control of a major commodity, Archer's contract stands out. The Pirates could conceivably have him for three more full seasons (team option in 2020 and 2021). That's not just desirable for the Pirates as they try to make up their 25-man roster over the next few seasons, but it continues to give Archer value to other teams.
What that means is that it might not be possible to evaluate this trade because it might not truly be over. If, say, Archer is pitching well, but the Pirates aren't winning in 2019, they could turn around and trade him to a contender, who still would like the potential extra seasons of control over the right-hander. If he's pitching well and they are in contention, then, well, that's exactly what being a buyer at the Deadline is about.
That's not something one can bank on, obviously. Right now, it does look like the Pirates paid a steep price to get Archer in black and gold. And the Rays got two big-league ready players they'll have under control for six or so years and a bit of a wild card who could pay out big dividends in Baz. So give the edge to Tampa Bay right now, but Buccos fans, before you go looking for one of the many bridges, maybe wait and see how this all plays out.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.