In July 2018, the Pittsburgh Pirates swung for the fences, trying to get one more playoff run going down by the three rivers. So far, that trade has backfired in every conceivable way and is now in position to be added to the list of worst trades in MLB history.
On Wednesday, the Pirates announced that Archer will miss the 2020 season (if there is one) after undergoing surgery to "relieve symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome." A quick Google search reveals the following about that injury:
"Thoracic outlet syndrome is characterized by compression of the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that come from your spinal cord and control muscle movements and sensation in your shoulder, arm and hand."
For a pitcher, that doesn't sound good.
During his time with the Pirates so far, Archer has made 33 starts and gone 6-12 with a 4.92 ERA, giving up 85 earned runs in 172 innings. The Pirates did not make the playoffs in 2018, finishing fourth in their division and seven games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second Wild Card spot. Last season, the Pirates were one of the worst teams in baseball and Archer was among the worst pitchers.
Worse than the numbers for both Archer and the team, however, is the players Pittsburgh gave up for his services.
Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow were both sent to Tampa Bay along with prospect Shane Baz. Meadows, 25, was an All-Star last year. The outfielder slugged 33 home runs with 89 RBI, 83 runs and a .291 batting average. Glasnow, a starting pitcher, got off to a hot start last year, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA before a arm strain sidelined him much of the year. He wasn't as dominant when he returned in September, but finished with a 6-1 record and 1.78 ERA. Baz is currently a Top-100 prospect in baseball.
The Pirates are on the hook for Archer this season but have a club option for the 2021 season. The cost would be $11 million. Likely, they will not pick up that option, ending Archer's time with the team.
While Archer's futility alone would not be enough to put this amongst the worst trades ever (Babe Ruth to the Yankees and Randy Johnson to the Mariners come to mind), if Glasnow, Meadows, or Baz have amazing careers, or if two out of three have solid careers, or if they all help the Rays win a title, it will fall under that category.
It's too early to say that will happen right now. Glasnow could be a one-hit wonder. Meadows could be injury-prone. Baz may never develop into a great MLB player. But this trade looks worse and worse by the day and the Pirates appear to be on the wrong side of history.