Tampa Bay Rays: A Look Back at the Chris Archer Trade

Chris Archer just ten days prior to the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images)
Chris Archer just ten days prior to the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) /

While we anxiously await Tampa Bay Rays baseball, there is no better time to look back on some of the marquee trades of recent memory.

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates came to an agreement on July 31, 2018, on a deal that sent Chris Archer to the Bucs and brought three players back to Tampa.

The Pirates were only 3.5 games back of a postseason spot at the time of the deal. General Manager Neal Huntington had his sights set on Archer as the prize of the trade deadline.

In order to receive Archer’s services, the Pirates had to part with a couple of players heralded among the best prospects in their system at various points, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow.

The Pirates were in need of starting pitching and Archer immediately slotted in at the top of their rotation. Huntington even mentioned the very high price that was paid for Archer and rationalized that he was worth more due to the length of time left on his contract. This wasn’t a half-year rental transaction. They were getting an ace for years to come, hence the high price tag.

Established Ace?

Between 2013-201 Archer was the ace of the Rays’ staff. He posted ERAs of 3.23, 3.33, and 3.23. He was an elite-strikeout pitcher. However, in 2016 and 2017 his ERA crossed the 4.0 mark in both seasons. At the time of the trade he had a 4.31 ERA for the Rays and ended up registering a 4.30 for the PIrates after the deal.

Last season Archer dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness as he posted a career-high 5.19 ERA in just 119.2 innings pitched. The Ks were still there (143) but he set career highs in WHIP (1.412), homers per nine innings (1.9) and walks per nine innings (4.1).

The Rays Collect Pirates’ Bounty

When you trade a two-time All-Star and ace-like pitcher who is still under team control for several years in exchange for young and unproven players, it can be perceived as a re-build. As it turned out, the Rays’ front office really knew what they are doing.

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Austin Meadows (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow ended up becoming anchors on a 96-win team that took the Houston Astros to the final game of the ALDS.

Upon their arrival in Tampa, both players began to live up to their minor-league hype. Meadows was already raising some eyebrows in his first 165 plate appearances in Pittsburgh, slashing .292/.327/.468. Meanwhile, Glasnow had struggled in his first three seasons with the Pirates. He had logged 141.1 innings which yielded a not-so-flattering 5.79 ERA.

Throughout his time in Pittsburgh, Glasnow had walked nearly six batters per nine innings. Once he got to the Rays they seemed to have the magic elixir for harnassing Glasnow’s electric stuff. At the time of the trade, Glasnow was handing out 5.5 free passes per nine innings. After the trade, he walked only 3.1 hitters per nine. Last season he brought that down to 2.1.

rWAR Totals

Since his trade to the Pirates, Archer has been worth 1.3 pitching wins above replacement (Baseball-Reference).

Austin Meadows posted a 4.0 rWAR last season for the Rays and finished 14th in MVP voting while making his first All-Star game.

Tyler Glasnow posted an astonishing 2.5 rWAR in just 60.1 innings pitched in 2019. If you average that out over 200 innings, Glasnow was on pace for 8.29 rWAR last season. To put that in perspective, Gerrit Cole posted a 6.5 rWAR in 2019.

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One more thing, the Rays also received Shane Baz as the player to be named later. We hope all the best for Chris Archer in 2020 and beyond, but there’s no doubt that Rays fans have to be happy with the outcome of this deal.