Back on the evening of Halloween 2020, the Pirates declined Chris Archer’s $11 million option for 2021; choosing instead to buyout his contract for $250,000, immediately making him a free agent and seemingly bringing an end to the often criticized trade that sent Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz to the Rays in exchange for Archer. Prior to this decision it appeared as if the majority of information and opinions I read sided with exercising the clause in his contract, rather than being on the hook for a player who missed the entire 2020 season after having surgery on June 2nd to relieve symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). Even many of the the people who were open to bringing Archer back wanted to so on a lower salary, more than likely a one year deal, after turning down the option.
Flash forward to this past Tuesday, February 2nd, when Chris Archer agreed to a 1 year deal worth $6.5 million with, you guessed it, the Tampa Bay Rays; and immediately almost everyone lost their minds. From the number of posts, articles and blogs about the sheer horror of the Rays still having control over three former top prospects from the Pirates, and now the man responsible for sending them there, it was apparently too much for some to bear.
The move by the Rays was described as a knife twisting in the Pirates, re-opening a wound or something that somehow made the trade worse. I also read that this brought the situation full circle, closed the book or produced an end to the disastrous trade.
First of all, I thought we all pretty much just agreed it was the best decision to not pick up the $11 option, so I am not sure why it matters who he signed with; especially since I rarely saw any number close to the $6.5 million he received from the Rays. Secondly, I am not sure how this trade could possibly get any worse, which had nothing to do with whether you agreed with it or condemned it from the beginning because we are way past that. Just look at the numbers from Archer and the players with potential, the kind Cherington is trying to get back now, we sent packing. It’s just that simple. It didn’t work out. And far as it being over, if Archer pitches at all this year, or even if he doesn’t, it will surely be brought back up. Like, for example, if he is unfortunately unable to pitch or performing terribly, does that make it better for the Pirates?
Then after all of this, as if we hadn’t already spent too much time living in the past, it was suggested that the Pirates bring hometown hero, Neil “The Pittsburgh Kid” Walker back. The reason for this acquisition was characterized as one that “…has less to do with actual baseball. It has everything to do with making things right now and healing what many view as a black eye on the franchise.” Reading over this statement for around the tenth time now, the premise behind it makes just as little sense as it did the first time. To me it directly implies the desire to appease a certain faction of fanbase that was upset by the December 2015 trade of Walker to the Mets; and I just have to say as a person who claimed Neil Walker as his favorite Pirate from 2010 through 2015, it would do absolutely nothing for me. On top of that if fans want Cherington to be more honest with them, make decisions that directly relate to improving the team or do things differently than previous regimes, please explain to me where any of this would fit in?
Next it was advised that Walker could help out with “The young, impressionable minds that will comprise the Pirates club house this season…” due to his amount of experience. You know who else could do that? Someone who is already on the payroll as a bench coach, former big leaguer Donnie Kelly. He also happens to be a local guy, so that checks off the other box, too.
Later it was proposed that Walker could attend Spring Training, as a player, to “…learn more about the young players he might soon cover…” just in case he decides to be a color commentator for the Pirates at some point. Sure he could get comfortable with the guys around the clubhouse, especially when they are hanging out in the dugout and during drills. However, to me it makes more sense for him to be able to observe from afar like a scout; watching pitchers in bullpens, hitters during live at bats and fielders talking flies and grounders, rather than getting to know some of the guys while trying to work on his own stuff. Besides, it might just be smarter to cut out the middle man and have AT&T Sportsnet give him a spot along with Michael McKenry, Matt Capps and Kevin Young to start the season, which would be totally up to them and him.
My familiarity with other fanbases runs pretty deep, but I don’t know all quirks and kinks concerning trades that didn’t go their way or thoughts about bringing fan favorites back to finish their careers where it all started, but I feel as Pirates fans we may have a little bit of an unhealthy obsession with such things. Why can’t we just let things go and allow the past be the past? I know it’s wishful thinking. Maybe one day.