Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is typically one of the most exciting parts of the summer. This year was no different as it was one of the more active deadlines in recent memory.
The Pittsburgh Pirates also stole the show, something that many probably never expected to hear. This fan base has been so split over the past few seasons but it’s hard for everyone to not be excited after yesterday’s big moves for Chris Archer and Keone Kela.
So many times we have heard the front office say they did not want to hurt the club’s chances in the future by trading top prospects. With these trades, they have proven that it is possible to maintain a future while still giving up top prospects. However, the market can be thanked for that ever so slightly.
On Twitter, I saw several jubilant people who were glad the Pirates went for it and then they credited the team’s strong play for forcing the front office to make the moves that they did. While that is 100 percent the truth, It could be argued that the 2013 -’15 teams did the same.
During last night’s game, General Manager Neal Huntington stated during an interview in the tv booth that these moves were made solely to show the team that the front office believes in them. Any fan fare or good PR that comes with it was not on their minds.
As I’m sure you know by now, in return for Kela, the Pirates shipped LHP Taylor Hearn and a player to be named. For Archer, the haul was significant, sending top hitting prospect Austin Meadows, former top prospect Tyler Glasnow, and a PTBNL that is said to also be a significant name.
This is unlike anything we have seen from the Pirates front office. But it wasn’t just because they wanted Archer, they felt comfortable with who they were giving up.
From 2011 through 2015, the Pirates failed to make that big splash trade on either their own doing or just because things didn’t work out.
In both 2011 and ’12, the Pirates were finally in a position to make relevant moves at the non-waiver trade deadline thanks to a winning record going into the all-star break. The playoffs were far from guaranteed but the fan base was excited and people wanted to see something happen.
To aid the pitching staff, they also picked up starter Wandy Rodriguez for prospects, most notably Robbie Grossman who never projected highly in the Pirates sytem. They also added Chad Qualls from the New York Yankees for Casey McGehee. Not exactly the kind of moves that excite a fan base but they were an effort to improve the club.
The team finished 79-83. For another season they evaded the .500 mark for a 20th straight season.
In 2013, the Bucs made their moves on the waiver trade market, picking up outfielder Marlon Byrd, catcher John Buck, and first baseman Justin Morneau. All of these players were at least 32 years old. The players sent away were younger major league players Alex Presley and Vic Black among some prospects.
Obviously this was the year that the consecutive losing season streak was broken when the team finished 94-68. They won the one game Wild Card and went on to lose in the divisional round against the St. Louis Cardinals.
While these trades weren’t organization changing, they put a spark in the team and around the city. This season brought meaningful baseball back to Pittsburgh and these trades were a big part of that.
2014 was a quite year trade wise for the Pirates. They only made two trades well before the deadline (Ike Davis and Ernesto Frieri, YIKES) and neither of them came even remotely close to working out. Luckily for the club, they didn’t give up much in return.
Rumor has it, however, that the Pirates were big suitors for then Tampa Bay ace David Price. The Rays instead went with a deal with the Detroit Tigers with many thinking this had something to do with Price’s personal requests.
They finished this year 88-74 before running into the buzzsaw that was Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game.
Then comes the infamous summer of 2015. The Pittsburgh Pirates arguably had the best team in baseball but were just one maybe two pieces away from going all the way.
At the mid-summer classic, the Pirates were 53-35. The fan base knew this team was special and they wanted it to get even better. They wanted something big.
They went out and acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez, pitcher Joe Blanton, closer Joakim Soria, starter J.A. Happ, and first baseman Michael Morse. All at least 31 years of age with Ramirez being the oldest at 37.
When looking at what the Pirates gave up, these deals were all steals. The Pirates sent away fringe prospects Adrian Sampson and JaCoby Jones and Jose Tabata, whose time in Pittsburgh stretched about two years too long.
However, this was a year when Price, Cole Hamels, and Scott Kazmir were being shopped heavly. Price was essentially traded to Toronto for scraps as he was a two month rental. The Rangers gave the Phillies six payers for Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, and cash. Kazmir also returned two solid prospects.
While we know the Pirates lost another tough Wild Card game, this time against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, they finished the season with 98 wins, the most since 1991. And even though none of the above players won a World Series ring that year, the teams who acquired them went for it and that’s what a large majority of Pirate fans had been calling for.
Will it be worth it?
So now comes the fun part. The Pirates “went for it” and we get to sit back and watch the process unfold. Huntington seems adamant that he and owner Bob Nutting are confident in this team and these moves show it.
Huntington took advantage of the market and made the most team friendly and fan friendly combo possible.
Kela is under control until at least 2020 and Archer until 2021. The Pirates gave a lot and got a lot back, that’s not something that typically happens at the MLB trade deadline.
I personally have no preference about what the front office does at the trade deadline, as long as it works. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m like a kid in a candy store getting to watch Archer pitch while wearing a Pirates uniform.