On Tuesday, the Pirates and Rays finalized their trade that sent Chris Archer to the Pirates. In return, the Rays had already received Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, but the Player To Be Named Later was named and his name was Shane Baz.
This immediately caused consternation among Pirate fans (and most of the TPOP staff) for fear that the Pirates overpaid. Ethan had a great article on Wednesday that I advise you all to read if you haven’t about Loss Aversion and the Endowment Effect.
After you’ve read that, let’s have a true-talk discussion on each of these three guys.
Glasnow was supposed to be The Next Big Thing. Like, literally. The dude’s a gigantor at 6′-8″. He dominated the minors with unreal strikeout rates that had Pirate fans licking their chops to see him with Cole and Taillon one day.
But then once he got close to the Majors in AAA, he got lost in his own head and his confidence evaporated. Those aren’t my words, they’re his from an excellent interview with the P-G’s Stephen Nesbitt. Again, read this interview. He admits he squandered his chances and was looking for a change in scenery.
Now that he has that change in scenery, coupled with some fresh, analytical coaching, he’s exploded in his first three quasi-starts. He’s getting stretched out so he’s gone 3, 4, and 5 innings, but he has 20 strikeouts and just 3 walks in those 12 innings. I’d like to qualify this by saying two of those games are against the Orioles (essentially a AAA team) and the Jays (ravaged by injuries and terribleness).
I’d like to see not only how he finishes this year, but also how he does next year. If the Rays have unlocked him, good for both the Rays and Glasnow. The Pirates tried and tried, but Glasnow wasn’t able and/or willing to listen to them. This isn’t a Gerrit Cole situation.
The first round pick from 2013 was immediately feted as the next great outfielder for the Pirates. As McCutchen’s tenure was winding down, it was assumed that Meadows would slide right in and nothing would be lost.
But there were plenty of flags for me regarding Meadows. The first is that he was constantly hurt with a variety of nagging injuries, including my favorite of fracturing his orbital bone while playing pre-game catch in the outfield. The only year he played more than even 100 games was in 2015 and that year his OPS was only 781.
The second is that he was never out and out great in the minors. His minor league career triple slash of .292/.355/.461 (816 OPS, ISO of .169) is very good, but not holy-cow great. For me he would have been a solid 3-WAR type of player, which I’m certainly not turning my nose up at, but not a consistent All-Star caliber 5 WAR player.
With Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Corey Dickerson all having good-to-great seasons, coupled with the minor league OF depth being bolstered with Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds (plus the drafting of Travis Swaggerty), the Pirates felt it was time to cash in this chip.
I completely had forgotten I wrote this article about Austin Meadows back in late May. At the end, I posited that if the Pirates wanted to obtain a front-line pitcher, Meadows would be the perfect piece to front that package.
It seemed like everyone was cool with the trade until Baz’s name was included this week. But once the 2017 1st round pick was announced as the PTBNL, some corners of the fanbase lost their minds. For years, Neal Huntington has hoarded his prospects, afraid to make a big move and give up future talent. Then he actually does it and people don’t like it.
With regards to Baz, I always use playing time and observe how the Pirates move a player through the minors to determine how they view a prospect. Even though he was a highly touted prospect, Baz was only assigned to Bristol in the Appalachian League when it started in June, only one step above the Rookie league. To compare, pitcher Cody Bolton was the 6th round pick out of high school in the 2017 draft and he has been starting at Low-A West Virginia. Baz’s stats don’t inspire a tremendous amount of confidence, either.
Baz himself is still four years away from the Majors, with no guarantee of either his performance or health in the interim. To exchange him for a known high-end asset in the present with three years of potential control is a move you make when you believe your team is ready to contend.
Much of this consternation centers around how people view Chris Archer. If you look at his rate stats of walks and strikeouts, they’ve been fairly consistent over the past few years. This year he’s been done in by an abnormally high BABIP of .347, well above his .301 career BABIP.
Archer has been billed as a #1, but even if he’s a low #2 moving forward, he owed potentially just $27.5M over the next three years if the options are picked up. The Pirates simply can not purchase a #2 pitcher on the open market. Those types of pitchers cost $20M/year, so for only $9M/year the Pirates can control one of their own.
Both sides are allowed to ‘win’ a trade. If the Pirates win the division in 2019 or beyond and Archer is at the heart of that effort, it doesn’t matter what Meadows/Glasnow/Baz do for the Rays. Trades are about what the player acquired does for the team, not about what the players are doing for the other team.