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Pirates make surprise splash trading for pitcher Chris Archer

August 1, 2018

Teams in the NL Central Division were not sitting still when the non-waiver trade deadline arrived Tuesday afternoon.

The third-place Pittsburgh Pirates showed they are all-in on making a playoff run, bolstering the front end of their rotation by adding Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer, while the division-leading Chicago Cubs acquired reliever Brandon Kintzler from Washington.

Archer, a two-time All-Star, is 3-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 17 starts this season for the Rays. The 29-year-old gives the Pirates a significant jolt in experience in a rotation that includes three starters — Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove — 26 or younger.

“I’m excited,” Archer said following a round of hugs in the Tampa Bay clubhouse shortly after the deal was announced. “They’re super-hot right now, and they want me. They gave up their top two (minor league) guys (outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow). Guys with some really good upside. I’m excited to be part of the organization that wants me, part of a rich baseball history, a hard-working community. I can’t wait to get there.”

The move was the second significant trade by the Pirates ahead of the non-waiver deadline. Pittsburgh acquired Texas Rangers closer Keone Kela early in the day for left-handed pitching prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named. The trades came at the end of a torrid 15-4 run by the club that pulled Pittsburgh within 3½ games of a wild card spot heading into a two-game set with the Cubs.

“Given the quality of the core, the players we have and those who are still on the horizon, the ability to add two players such as this, we feel, pushed us into a higher level and allows us to believe we are going to be one of those teams that has a legitimate chance to make the postseason not only this year (but beyond),” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.

Pittsburgh, which was the only team to not sign a free agent during the offseason, assumes the remaining $2,049,731 in Archer’s $6.25 million salary.

Archer receives a $500,000 assignment bonus for the trade. His deal includes a $7.5 million salary for 2019, a $9 million team option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout and an $11 million club option for 2021 with a $250,000 buyout.

The Cubs sent minor league pitcher Jhon Romero to the Nationals for Kintzler, who turns 34 today. He is 1-2 with two saves and a 3.59 ERA in 45 games this season. He had been especially tough in 14 games since coming back from the disabled list from a strained forearm.

“Pretty shocked but get to go to a great situation right now,” said Kintzler, who made 172 appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2010-15. “I’ve already talked to them, they’re excited.”

Kintzler was an All-Star closer last year with Minnesota, then was traded on July 31 to Washington.

Meanwhile, St. Louis outfielder Tommy Pham was dealt to the Rays a year after establishing himself as one of the NL’s top outfielders — and providing yet another shakeup for the fourth-place Cardinals in the process.

“I was really shocked,” Pham said.

St. Louis sent the 30-year-old and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation to the Rays for a trio of minor leaguers: outfielder Justin Williams, left-hander Genesis Cabrera and right-hander Roel Ramirez.

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