Last July's deal to acquire Chris Archer was so bold, so out of character for the Pirates as a franchise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Jim Rutherford had sneaked into PNC Park and pulled the trigger when no one was looking.
The Pirates picked up arguably the trade deadline's most desired available player, taking on salary and surrendering a bounty of prized young talent (Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Shane Baz) in the process. It seemed to mark a turning point for the team--a declaration that they were done treading water in the NL Central standings, and were focused on returning to the glory days of 2013-15.
One year later, the Archer deal is looking like one that the Pirates could seriously regret. Archer has been an also-ran in Pittsburgh, posting a park and league-adjusted ERA that is 7 percent worse than the overall MLB average. Meanwhile, Glasnow--last seen in these parts as a jittery, control-challenged reliever--has suddenly discovered the strike zone and is forging an early Cy Young Award campaign (a transformation worthy of its own, future Stats 'N 'At column). Meadows, who's currently injured, has an on-base-plus-slugging percentage north of 1.000 in Tampa Bay. Baz is farther away, but he's a former first-rounder with a power arm and a shot to contribute. Since the trade, Archer has been worth one Win Above Replacement (WAR, a measure of a player's overall value compared to that of a fringe major leaguer). Glasnow has been worth 2.1 WAR, and Meadows another one WAR. It's not looking good.
Why has Archer, on the injured list with a thumb problem, underwhelmed in Pittsburgh?
What does he have to do to rediscover the form that had the Pirates willing to part with two former top-25 prospects, and a 2017 first-round pick?