Mehno: Huntington makes bold moves this time
PITTSBURGH — Neal Huntington did more than just acquire two pitchers on Tuesday.
He jolted the team’s fan base, and he destroyed the myth that he is unwilling to trade prospects to get help for the major league club.
The Pirates added starter Chris Archer and reliever Keone Kela at the trade deadline, setting the team up for a run at this year’s postseason while also addressing roster building beyond this season.
The Pirates were big players at the frenetic MLB trading deadline because of who they added rather than subtracted.
The cost in players was significant — Archer was acquired for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a third player who has not yet been named.
Kela was traded for left-hander starter Taylor Hearn and another player not yet named.
When the smoke cleared, the Pirates had arguably acquired the best starter and best reliever still on the market as the deadline approached.
The time stamp on the e-mail announcing the Kela trade was significant. It was sent at 1:11 a.m. Tuesday, which offers some idea of how intense things can get as time is running out.
Huntington said the Pirates closed the Archer deal at 3:57, three minutes before the deadline. Reports say the Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers all went down to the wire chasing Archer.
These are not rental players. Kela is under club control for two seasons beyond this one. Archer is signed through 2021 at manageable figures — he signed for $7.5 million next season and $8.25 million over each of the two following seasons. His salary numbers are almost identical to those of Ivan Nova.
The Pirates get a dependable pitcher who routinely tops 200 innings per season. He should lend stability to a rotation that’s short on experience. His numbers have trended slightly downward since a career season in 2015, but he’s also been competing in a tough division and a league where the designated hitter rule adds an extra bat to the lineup.
Kela offers an insurance policy in case anything goes wrong with closer Javier Vazquez. He also adds experience to a late-inning group of Kyle Crick, Edgar Santana and Richard Rodriguez.
Meadows, who was sent to Class AAA by Tampa Bay, is the key piece for the Rays. They’re taking a calculated gamble on the enigmatic Glasnow, who has a big arm but hasn’t shown much consistency. The third player in the deal is said to be someone who could be significant.
Meadows’ Pirates career turned out to be as curious as it was brief. He started out in spectacular fashion, then tailed off as opponents got a better handle on how to approach him. After that, he sat on the bench and was eventually sent back to the minor leagues.
Hearn was part of the return from Washington when the Pirates got Vazquez for Mark Melancon. Hearn was considered a prospect of some note.
These are the kinds of moves Huntington has mostly avoided in the past. But quality pitching is expensive to acquire, especially when the pitchers are in team-favorable contract circumstances.
Jake Arietta, who is 32, signed with the Phillies over the winter for a guaranteed $75 million over three seasons, plus two club options. That’s serious money for a pitcher who is likely past his prime.
Huntington’s significant challenge is to assemble competitive teams on a smaller budget than most of his peers. That’s life in the small markets.
He stepped up Tuesday and made moves that are as much for the next two seasons as they are for this one.
The idea is to sustain competitiveness, and he took his best shot at that goal with two very bold trades.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com