Pirates GM Neal Huntington discussed Chris Archer’s future with the team both during his Sunday morning radio show and in conversations with reporters today (including Nubyjas Wilborn of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and MLB.com’s Adam Berry), and strongly implied that the Bucs were going to pick up their $9MM club option on the righty for the 2020 season. Though Archer is currently on the IL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, Huntington said that Archer’s current health status didn’t impact the Pirates’ decision on his option, and spoke as though he expects Archer to be part of Pittsburgh’s rotation mix next season.
“There’s a lot to like with Chris Archer. We want to make sure that we do the right thing by him,” Huntington said. “We don’t want him to feel like he has to come back out to earn his spot. We see some really positive signs. We recognize the issues and challenges, but we see some really positive signs and expect Chris is going to be a really good major league pitcher again next year.”
Archer has posted subpar numbers since coming to the Bucs at the 2018 trade deadline, posting a 4.92 ERA, 2.78 K/BB rate, 1.7 HR/9, and 10.6 K/9 over 172 innings in the black-and-gold. It’s a far cry from the controllable, front-of-the-rotation arm the club felt it was getting from the Rays, especially given that the Pirates gave up a collection of young talent that now looks like an absolute steal. Austin Meadows has developed into a very good everyday player for Tampa, Tyler Glasnow was pitching like an ace before being sidelined with injuries, and even Shane Baz (the somewhat overlooked third member of the prospect package) is rated by MLB.com as the sixth-best prospect in the Rays’ farm system.
In part because letting Archer go for nothing would make this trade seem even more lopsided, there was little question the Pirates would be picking up that $9MM option, regardless of his struggles. It was Archer’s controllable years that made him such an attractive trade commodity in the first place. The original six-year, $25.5MM extension Archer signed with Tampa Bay in March 2014 also contained the $9MM option for 2020 (with a $1.75MM buyout) and an $11MM club option for 2021 ($250K buyout).
The Pirates’ rotation will already miss Jameson Taillon next season since Taillon will be recovering from Tommy John surgery, so beyond hoping that at least a couple of their younger arms emerge, Pittsburgh will likely be on the lookout to add at least one more veteran arm to the pitching mix this offseason. $9MM for one season is a decent price for a league-average starter, so if Archer’s salary isn’t exorbitant if he can pitch to even an adequate level next year.
As to whether Archer will pitch again in 2019, Huntington said the right-hander will be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days after receiving a second opinion about his shoulder. While Archer is out, Dario Agrazal will continue to fill his spot in the rotation, with Huntington noting that the rookie right-hander is one of many young players who have an opportunity to show their wares as the Pirates play out the stretch. “Dario is going to do everything in his power to earn a rotation spot going forward,” the GM said, adding that he sees Agrazal as a starting pitcher rather than a reliever.