PITTSBURGH -- Likely sellers only three weeks ago, the Pirates wound up bringing home the Trade Deadline's biggest prize.
After trading for Rangers closer Keone Kela early Tuesday morning, the Pirates acquired starter Chris Archer from the Rays prior to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Pittsburgh sent outfielder Austin Meadows and right-hander Tyler Glasnow -- both recent top prospects -- along with a player to be named in exchange for Archer, who is finally on the move after years of speculation in Tampa Bay.
"Chris was our target," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
Archer, 29, will immediately join the top of Pittsburgh's rotation along with right-hander Jameson Taillon. But this is not just a move for the final two months of this season. After an offseason spent moving franchise cornerstones Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, this was a commitment to the Pirates' current, controllable core that has surged within 3 1/2 games of a spot in the postseason over the last three weeks.
"We believe in this team," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "We believe in the young core that's here, the young core that will be here for several years as we move forward and the wave that's right behind them that we believe in. We wouldn't have paid the steep price that we paid today in terms of Major League players and prospects for a player who was here for two months. But we were able to bring in somebody who we believe can help push us forward this year and then help us in '19, '20 and '21. That was important."
Huntington and Coonelly said the Pirates' turnaround, during which they won 15 of 19 games, pushed them in this direction. A month ago, they were thinking about "Scenario A," as Coonelly put it: building up their organizational depth with an eye on 2019. Then the Bucs stormed back into the playoff picture, pushing them toward "Scenario B," adding players for the present and future.
"I am proud of our baseball operations staff and their tireless dedication and preparation to put us in the position to make these moves," Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement. "Our collective confidence in this core group of players made this the right time to seize an opportunity and continue in the clear direction that was set this offseason. We needed to get better then and needed to get better now. These moves should make us a stronger team this season and beyond."
Archer is making $6.25 million this year, and he's due $7.5 million next season, the final guaranteed year of his contract. Archer's club-friendly deal also includes team options for 2020 ($9 million) and '21 ($11 million), so the Pirates can build their rotation around him and Taillon for years to come.
"It's exciting. It's probably as a result of us playing good baseball. We put them in the position to go out and make these decisions," Taillon said after the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night. "I'm happy that we added. I'm even more happy that we didn't just add to add. I'm happy that we added them for how long we have them. I'm really excited to work with them."
Archer's numbers over the past three years, including a 22-36 record and 4.10 ERA, aren't indicative of the pure stuff he possesses. The right-hander has finished among the American League's top three in strikeouts each of the last three seasons. He is the only pitcher in Rays history to record three 200-strikeout seasons. He is also known for his durability, having started at least 32 games each year from 2014-17.
"We understand the surface numbers aren't typical Chris Archer surface numbers," Huntington said. "We believe the indicators are there that Chris Archer is still an upper-echelon, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. We're excited to get him in our ballpark. I'm sure he's excited to face one [fewer] person who's paid to be a hitter on a given night. We're looking forward to having Chris come in here and impacting us."
To add Archer and Kela, the Bucs not only took on $2.945 million in salary, but also dealt away three young players: Meadows, Glasnow and prospect Taylor Hearn. Even this year, Meadows and Glasnow looked like foundational pieces for the franchise. They each held the title of Pittsburgh's top prospect at some point before Mitch Keller took the mantle.
The move was a departure from the norm for Pittsburgh, which has always sought to build its roster around young, cost-controlled players like Meadows and Glasnow. The investment will grow even steeper in the coming weeks when the player to be named later is revealed. Huntington only said the prospect will be a "player of significance."
Meadows, 23, made his Major League debut this season in May and quickly won NL Rookie of the Month honors. The lefty-hitting outfielder is slashing .292/.327/.468 with five homers, 13 RBIs and four steals in 49 games. The Pirates felt more comfortable moving Meadows given their current outfield situation and depth of prospects. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are locked up long term, and Corey Dickerson is under club control through the 2019 season. The farm system boasts a handful of prospects, including Jordan Luplow, Jason Martin (Triple-A), Bryan Reynolds (Double-A) and 2018 first-round Draft pick Travis Swaggerty (Short Season Class A), but none with the potential of Meadows.
"We know we've given up a player who's going to have a really good career. He was a must-have for Tampa," Huntington said. "We got to a point where we felt OK with that because we're so excited about what we have coming back in Chris Archer."
Glasnow, 24, looked like a can't-miss pitching prospect coming out of the Minors, but he has struggled to adjust in the Majors. The 6-foot-8 right-hander posted a 7.69 ERA last season, primarily as a starter, before putting together a 4.34 ERA with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings as a reliever this year. He will join Tampa Bay's big league roster.