Pirates had the most ill-timed winning streak of the year, and may end up with buyer's remorse after the Chris Archer trade

Can a winning streak ever be bad? 

In looking at the 2018 Pirates -- the timing and how everything unfolded in July -- the answer is an easy yes. 

Through July 7, the Pirates were floundering at 40-48. It was just as expected from the team that dumped Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen in the offseason. What came next, though, was the most ill-timed winning streak of the season. 

The Pirates won two, then lost a game. And then, they won 11 straight. Interesting enough, during the streak, CBS Sports HQ analyst and former Marlins president David Samson specifically said that if he were in the Pirates' front office, he would be unhappy with the winning streak. His words have rung very true. 

Leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, the Pirates had very little choice but to buy. They were within a few games of a playoff spot and were already facing a disgruntled fan base given the offseason. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the NLCS since 1992 and the fan base has long had issues with ownership. The look of neglecting the hottest team in baseball in July just wouldn't be acceptable. As such, the Pirates were buyers. 

The big-ticket move was getting starting pitcher Chris Archer. The Pirates gave up pitcher Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Shane Baz

Archer has now made six starts for the Pirates, posting a 6.45 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .313/.374/.552 against him. Small sample fluke? Perhaps, but Archer pitched to a 4.05 ERA (101 ERA+) in 2016-17 and was at 4.31 (94) with the Rays in 2018 before the deal. He also had a 4.12 ERA in his last 21 starts in 2015. Quite simply: Archer's first 13 starts in 2015, when he had a 1.84 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 83 innings, are doing an awful lot of heavy lifting for his reputation. 

It should be noted that Archer is under team control through 2021 ($7,666,667 next season, a $9M club option and an $11M club option) and that's why the Pirates gave up so much value. I'm just saying that for the overwhelming majority of his career, he has failed to live up to the pitcher he's hailed to be. 

Meantime, Glasnow has taken a step forward with the Rays. Meadows is hitting .347/.400/.779 with 10 homers in 27 games in Triple-A since the deal. Baz is struggling, but he's 19 years old and was a first-round pick in 2017. 

All of which could be stomached if the Pirates were still contending. That's the rub, though. They aren't. They haven't been good, basically, all season other than that stretch in July. 

  • Through July 7: 40-48
  • July 8-24: 12-1
  • Since July 24: 12-19

They are 9-16 in August and have fallen to 13 1/2 out in the NL Central and 8 1/2 games out from the second wild card with six teams to leapfrog. 

This was a team that had no business buying, but also was put in the position to where the front office was left little choice, from a public relations standpoint. 

Further, the Pirates did have pieces to sell. 

The versatile Josh Harrison is likely a free agent after this season. There are club options for 2019 ($10.5M) and 2020 ($11.5M). He's having a down year, but it's possible some team(s) would have given up something of value for him. 

Corey Dickerson is pretty well established as an above-average bat at a corner outfield spot and hits free agency after next season. 

David Freese is an above-average bat and only making $4.25M this season with a $6M club option for next season. 

Hell, if the Pirates were sellers, it's possible Starling Marte would be a nice deal. He's 29 and signed through next season with club options for 2020 ($11.5M) and 2021 ($12.5M). 

Instead, the Pirates sent what look to be three good pieces for a pitcher that hasn't been much better than league average since the middle of 2015. 

That's a rough trade deadline season that was spurred on by one of the worst-timed winning streaks in recent memory. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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