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Archer trade gets even better as Rays add promising young pitcher

Promising pitcher Shane Baz poses for a photo in May in Bradenton. [Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via Associated Press]
Promising pitcher Shane Baz poses for a photo in May in Bradenton. [Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via Associated Press]
Published Aug. 15, 2018
Updated Aug. 15, 2018

NEW YORK — The return the Rays got from the Pirates for Chris Archer already looked good.

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow has been increasingly impressive in three starts using his high-octane fastball and cruel breaking balls, and outfielder Austin Meadows has shown the talent and skills at Triple-A Durham they are confident will translate when promoted, presumably in the next few weeks.

And then the deal got better Tuesday, when the player to be named turned out to be named Shane Baz, a touted right-handed pitching prospect who was the No. 12 overall pick in last year's draft.

"We couldn't be happier with the first impressions Tyler and Austin have made, and adding Shane to the return makes us feel that much better,'' Rays senior VP Chaim Bloom said.

"As we said often, Chris was such a big part of what we were doing here that it was going to take a certain type of return for a trade to make sense. Credit the Pirates for coming to the table with that, and even then it was a difficult decision. The amount of talent we received made it something we felt we needed to do.''

The Rays won't know for at least a few years exactly much of a third wheel Baz, 19, will turn out to be. The potential based on his prospect status, including a No. 95 overall ranking by mlb.com, seems impressive.

Baz (rhymes with Oz) was the second prep right-hander taken in the 2017 draft, debuted last summer in the Gulf Coast League (0-3, 3.80), is pitching now in the rookie-level Appalachian League, going 4-3, 3.97 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 451/3 innings over 10 starts for Bristol. He will now join the Rays' Princeton (W. Va.) team.

"He is a ways away, but he has all the ingredients you look for in a starting pitching prospect, as good as you could ask for on a high school right-hander,'' Bloom said, detailing a four-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, hard slider, curveball and changeup. "He has a power profile, and the upside that comes along with it.''

Baz comes with a bit of a personality, as well. He named his Twitter account @thewizardofbaz and recently explained to milb.com that as part of his plan to intimidate hitters as soon as he gets to the mound for warmups, "I'll give the ball a good sniff, see what it's smelling like. I'm out there to dominate.''

Bloom said the Rays are okay with that, too, noting the attention and scrutiny Baz got coming out of Texas' Concordia Lutheran High and the poise and competitiveness he has already shown.

Obviously Rays executives are going to be talking up Baz, whose inclusion in the deal was delayed so he the Rays could see him pitch a couple times following a July outing abbreviated due to shoulder concerns that apparently was a false alarm.

But they're not the only ones.

"Getting Shane Baz as the final piece in the Chris Archer trade is a great get,'' mlb.com's Jim Callis said. "Baz is just getting started, but he might be the best pitcher from the 2017 draft when all is said and done. If any of the three guys — Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, Baz — hits his ceiling, it's a good trade for the Rays. If two of them come close to that, it's a great trade for the Rays."

Another mlb.com prospect expert, Jonathan Mayo, wrote, "The price was significant even before it was learned that Baz, the team's first-round pick in 2017, was the player to be named. … The big question, of course, is: Did Pittsburgh give up too much to help its big league rotation? …

"Right now, it does look like the Pirates paid a steep price to get Archer in black and gold. And the Rays got two big-league ready players they'll have under control for six or so years and a bit of a wild card who could pay out big dividends in Baz. So give the edge to Tampa Bay right now, but Buccos fans, before you go looking for one of the many bridges, maybe wait and see how this all plays out.''

Baseball America's Matt Eddy, noting the slow development of Archer and Glasnow, said it's too early to judge, that "it could be 2024 or 2025 before the Rays truly know what they have in Shane Baz.''

But based on what they do have in Glasnow and Meadows — "the nice part about it is you can see it; we see it on the field,'' principal owner Stuart Sternberg said — the Rays have reason to feel pretty good. Better if Baz passes the smell test.

"I think it's a pretty good haul,'' pitcher Jake Faria said. "Wouldn't have expected anything else trading a guy like Arch. You expect to get a pretty good haul. But to get two big-league ready guys and one guy who was a first-rounder last year who seems like a pretty big guy — Twitter fell apart as soon as his name was announced — I think it was a really good return on our part.''

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com.