It has, undoubtedly, been a rough decade for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their faithful fans. The team has found itself at the bottom of the National League Central division for the majority of the last 10 years, except for a brief stretch of promise from 2013-2015. However, even during those good years the Pirates were never able to win their division, and they also never made it further than the NL Division series.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Pittsburgh Pirates have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Pittsburgh Pirates Have Made Since 2010: Pittsburgh Acquires Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick From the San Francisco Giants for Andrew McCutchen (January 18, 2018)
Trading away a fan favorite and homegrown star is never an easy move to make (just ask the Boston Red Sox after the Mookie Betts trade). However, the Pirates and their fans are no longer feeling the sting of losing the man they called “Cutch” before the start of the 2018 season.
Andrew McCutchen spent nine seasons in Pittsburgh and established himself as one of the best outfielders in baseball during that time. He was a five-time All-Star and reached the pinnacle of his career when he won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 2013.
However, as the 2018 season approached, McCutchen’s production had begun to dip, and the Pirates were beginning to rebuild their system, as they traded ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros on January 13. Hence, the team decided to continue that rebuild by trading McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick.
McCutchen has since bounced around from the Giants to the New York Yankees and now to the Philadephia Phillies, where he struggles to find everyday playing time in a crowded lineup. The Pirates, on the other hand, received two players who have become regular, everyday staples of their current roster.
Bryan Reynolds, 25, had a breakout year with the Bucs in 2019. He finished with a .314/.377/.503 slash line, 16 home runs, 83 runs scored, 37 doubles, and 154 hits in 134 games played. Reynolds doesn’t yet have a full year of MLB service under his belt, thus he’s essentially under team control until the 2025 season, making him an extremely affordable yet important piece of the Pirates lineup for years to come.
Kyle Crick, 27, has been a key contributor to the Pirates bullpen since arriving as part of the trade back in 2018. He took a step back in 2019, finishing with a 4.96 ERA in just 52 appearances out of the pen, but Crick is still young and still possesses swing-and-miss quality stuff that the Pirates can use to their advantage.
The Worst Trade the Pittsburgh Pirates Have Made Since 2010: Pittsburgh Acquires Chris Archer From the Tampa Bay Rays for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz (July 31, 2018)
They say “hindsight is 20/20,” and former Pirates general manager Neal Huntington probably wishes he possessed more of that hindsight when he made this trade. Huntington had targeted Archer to join his team’s rotation as the Pirates found themselves just three and a half games out of an NL playoff spot at the MLB trade deadline.
Archer’s career win-loss record is unimpressive, but there has never been any question about the quality of his stuff. He has perennially been a 200-plus strikeout pitcher who can go deep into games; the only question is whether he has the mental and emotional makeup to ever become a frontline starter.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, things have gone completely backward for Archer since arriving in Pittsburgh. He has gone a combined 6-12 with a 4.91 ERA in 33 starts with the Pirates since July 2018. The 31-year-old has looked nowhere close to an ace, let alone a reliable everyday starter in his short tenure with the Pirates.
As bad as Archer’s time in Pittsburgh has been, it’s the players that the Pirates traded away that are hurting them the most in the aftermath of this trade. Outfielder Austin Meadows was the centerpiece of the Pirates’ package sent to Tampa Bay for Archer, and the 24-year-old has burst onto the scene as one of the game’s best young players. Meadows had a monstrous 2019 campaign, batting .291 and smashing 33 home runs in 138 games with the Rays. He made his first All-Star team in his first full season in the big leagues, and he projects to make many more All-Star teams, as his career continues to blossom.
Tyler Glasnow was also sent to Tampa Bay in this trade. Glasnow was considered somewhat of a “throw-in” with the deal, as Meadows was the real prize that Tampa Bay wanted. However, Glasnow is a young, hard-throwing starter who has a lot of potential but just never found his stride with the Pirates. He quickly made the Pirates regret trading him with his standout, albeit short-lived, 2019 season.
Glasnow only made 12 starts due to nagging injuries, but in those starts he went 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA while recording 76 strikeouts in just 60.2 innings pitched. Glasnow has dealt with injury woes throughout his young career, but should he be able to overcome them, he will be an absolute force on the mound for the Rays for many years to come.
The Pirates picked up Archer’s contract option for the 2020 season whenever, if at all, it begins. Archer could be viewed as a prime bounce-back candidate based purely on his natural ability, but there are still many questions surrounding his commitment and maturity on the mound. A rebound season from Archer might take a little bit of the sting out of this trade, but it will never completely erase its negative ramifications.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.