Huntington Backs Up His Word, Adds Big Names at Trade Deadline

Pirates GM says team is built to win now and in the future.

Noah Hiles
July 31, 2018 - 8:27 pm

Photo by: Noah Hiles

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Less than one month ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates' season looked to be all but over. The team’s hot start in the month of April had seemingly gone to waste after a slump that brought the club down to eight games under .500.

However, following the team's general manager challenging the team to step up in the final week before the All Star break, the Bucs did just that. After ending the first half winning seven of their eight games, the Pirates came out of the break just as sharp, taking seven of their first ten contests, pushing the club back over .500 and entering Tuesday just 3.5 games out of the second National League wild card spot.

With the team meeting their general manager's demands, it became time for Neal Huntington to back up his word. After waiting patiently for the right deal to come to the surface, the Pirates struck twice in a big way on the final day of the trade deadline, acquiring right handed closer Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer. For Huntington, the moves made by the front office had always been a part of the plan.

“As we talked about on July 8th, the low point of the season, the week before I was talking about adding to this club,” said Huntington. “Adding a reliever and anywhere else that made sense.”

Huntington continued saying, “We put this group together believing that this could be one of the ten playoff teams in October that has a chance to win a World Series. That optimism had turned into realism. The team went on a great run, they showed what we are capable of, showed what we did the first 40-something games and all the credit in the world goes to these players, to these major league coaches.”

While the moves the team made certainly give the Pirates a better chance to compete this year, it will also allow the club to remain a legitimate post season contender in the National League for years to come. For Huntington, the ability to help his team in both the present and the future was what allowed him to, in the end, go through with making the deals with Texas and Tampa Bay.

“It ultimately comes back to our belief in this core,” said Huntington. “This group of young players and players we have on the horizon and what a player the caliber of Chris Archer and Keone Kela can mean not only to this year’s team, but in Chris’ case the next three teams, and in Keone’s case the next two teams.”

Kela, who will be under team control until 2020 was labeled as one of the top relief pitchers available at the trade deadline. His 24 saves, 10.80 K/9 and .203 batting average against will make him a solid addition to a Pirates bullpen that is already loaded with talent. Kela has been exceptionally dominant against right handed hitters this season, limiting them to a slash line of .122/.220/.188.

If the Pirates thought they had made out well acquiring Kela, they might have done even better in the Chris Archer deal. Archer, who will be under team control until 2021, is a two-time All Star who has a 3.69 ERA in his seven years as a major leaguer. While his record (3-5) and ERA (4.31) in 2018 may not be the best, Archer's ability to strike batters out (102 K’s in only 96 IP) and go long into games will make him a tough opponent for any team that he faces.

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