The Pirates have emerged as a somewhat surprising entrant into the market for Rays right-hander Chris Archer, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). Fancred’s Jon Heyman hears the same (Twitter link), adding that his sense is that Pittsburgh’s interest in Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has been overstated. Then again, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette joined The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel in reporting that the Pirates do have interest in both Gausman and Orioles reliever Mychal Givens (Twitter link).
While the degree of interest in Archer and Gausman likely has some level of variance, it seems clear that the Bucs are throwing their hats into the ring on some controllable assets that could help to fortify their rotation for the next few years. Archer is controlled through the 2021 season at a reasonable total of $27.5MM, while Gausman can be controlled through the 2020 season via the arbitration process.
Both right-handers have shown flashes of elite abilities at times in the past, but neither has emerged as a clear top-of-the-rotation arm despite that obvious talent. The Pirates, under pitching coach Ray Searage, have developed a reputation for tapping into such potential in recent seasons, though the organization has had its share of misses as well. Gerrit Cole, for instance, struggled to tap into his ace potential consistently in Pittsburgh but has dramatically improved following a trade to Houston.
Pittsburgh raced out to a brilliant start to the 2018 season but floundered in the season’s middle months. They’ve surged back into contention with a torrid hot streak in recent weeks though, now sitting at 55-52. They’re still seven games out of the NL Central lead, trailing both the Cubs and the Brewers, but they’re a more manageable four games back of the Wild Card race.
Between reported interest in Archer, Gausman, Givens and Rangers closer Keone Kela, it doesn’t seem like the Bucs have much interest in dealing prospects for rentals. But, each of those four right-handers is controlled for at least two seasons beyond 2018, so it seems that the Pirates are willing to part with some future assets if it means bolstering their chances of contending for the next several seasons.