This week’s musings had to wait.
Neal Huntington suggested last Sunday that the Pirates would, “love to add,” to a team that had just won 15 of its last 18 games to play itself back into the wild card race in the National League.
So the musings were put on hold to see if Huntington was posturing. Not that the Pirates’ general manager has ever postured, but a column just ahead of the trade deadline would have been pointless.
And then, Atlas shrugged.
The Pirates and Huntington broke from standard operating procedure and may have changed the structural paradigms that have governed the direction and philosophy of the team since Huntington took over in 2007.
Until July 31, 2018, the Pirates were loathe to trade high-end prospects for established Major Leaguers. Build from within, remain budget-conscious and don’t mortgage the future. We can win next year.
Perhaps Huntington is tired of waiting. Perhaps he has ramped up his aggressiveness with acquiring Major League talent because he is weary of interviews that end with rhetoric about the future, next season, prospects and why the Pirates cannot get over the hump.
I hope the deal that sent a former prized prospect, Tyler Glasnow, and current prized prospect, Austin Meadows, to Tampa Bay for starting pitcher Chris Archer is evidence of a new thought process for the Pirates. Archer was among the most coveted players at the deadline and now he is a Pirate.
The significance, hopefully, is more than just the Pirates landing a quality player at the deadline. They have done that before with Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau in 2013, but something feels different this time.
Parting with Meadows, Glasnow and a player to be named, a player Huntington said Pittsburgh fans would know, to line up Archer with Jameson Taillon and top pitching prospect Mitch Keller suggests the Pirates believe they have a core of starters that can push them back to the top of the National League.
Meadows is a nice player who should have a good career. I said “nice,” and “good,” not outstanding and great. Meadows will never confuse anybody with any of the all-time great outfielders in baseball history, and I wonder if he will ever be an all-star. Glasnow may figure it out in Tampa Bay, but he proved to be very uncoachable and seemed to have an inflated view of himself despite having flopped in the Majors to date.
The Huntington of old would not have pulled the trigger on this deal. He admitted as much when he said the Pirates have been trying to land Archer since – get ready – 2007. Surely the Pirates have been able to offer a better package of players for Archer than Meadows and Glasnow since 2007.
That is the encouraging part of the deal. Perhaps Huntington and the Pirates are more serious than ever about focusing on the Major League roster. Transact for now, play for this year and go for a World Series.
There is more work to be done – the roster is flawed – and ownership will have to increase payroll to make any World Series push more than wishful thinking, but maybe, just maybe, the Archer deal is a harbinger.
Erin had a big week. She attended a Pirates game on Tuesday and Steelers training camp last Friday. After she identified Antonio Brown (by asking me, “uhm, who is number 84?”) Erin noticed something I also noticed about A.B. – he is a tireless worker and has earned everything he has accomplished in the NFL. Brown worked one-on-one with Steelers receivers coach Darryl Drake like he was a rookie who had not mastered his craft. He was a leader in every drill and made, perhaps, the best catch of the season – in training camp. Erin’s favorite part of the day was a reception that followed practice where Vince WIlliams and Anthony Chickillo were signing autographs. Chickillo is very friendly and has long hair, so Erin was a bit taken. Her take away from her day at camp, “Now I have two players that I like – Juju and that Chick-fil-a guy.” I laughed the whole way home.
Nick Kingham’s last two starts have been troubling. He is wild and unfocused and does not pitch himself out of trouble. Damage control is a huge part of effective pitching in the Majors. Archer’s arrival probably signals Kingham’s return to Indianapolis where he really does need to work on a few things. Kingham may be a solid part of the Pirates’ rotation sooner than later, but not if he cannot stop the bleeding after allowing a baserunner or two.
Lost in the Archer hooplah, and perhaps as significant, is the Pirates’ acquisition last Monday of Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers for pitching prospect Taylor Hearn and the notorious player to be named later. With Kela in the mix, the Pirates have a chance to shut down games after six innings. Kyle Crick has been an effective set-up man, and could take that role to the seventh inning, staging the eighth for Kela and the ninth for Felipe Vasquez. Again, though, the Kela trade felt a bit out of character for Huntington and the Pirates and could be part of a bigger philosophical change in the way the Pirates run a Major League baseball team.