The Pirates were supposed to be rebuilding this season. They traded away faces-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last winter. Contending wasn't in their plans.
Instead, an 11-game winning streak that wrapped around the All-Star break put the Pirates on the fringes of playoff contention. That run convinced their front office to buy prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
In the blockbuster of the trade deadline, the Pirates traded two of their most promising young players -- outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Tyler Glasnow -- for All-Star pitcher Chris Archer. They also acquired closer Keone Kela from the Rangers.
The moves caught McCutchen off guard.
"It was definitely surprising to see because they've never done that before, at least when I was there. Yeah, they made trades when I was there, but nothing like getting an ace starter. You either change with the times, or you get left behind. Maybe they were tired of getting left behind," McCutchen told USA Today Sports recently.
"You've got to understand the fanbase, what we've been though the past few years, not winning, and having a window to win...Maybe, it comes with experience knowing that they need to act and get the pieces they need, as opposed to the past, where they said, "Hey, we're good with what we got,'" McCutchen said.
Entering play on Monday, the Pirates are 57-55 and sit in fourth place in the NL Central, 7.5 games behind the Cubs. In the Nl Wild Card race, they five games behind the Braves for the second Wild Card spot.
McCutchen spent the first nine years of his career with the Pirates. He was traded to the Giants in January for reliever Kyle Crick, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and international bonus money.