The Pirates have placed right-handers Chris Archer and Clay Holmes on the 10-day injured list, the team announced. Archer has been sidelined with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, while Holmes is suffering from left quad discomfort. Right-handers Dario Agrazal and Parker Markel have been called up from Triple-A to fill the two 25-man roster spots.
Some type of IL placement seemed likely for Archer following his abbreviated outing last night, when he left the game after just one inning following an off-target warm-up prior to his second frame of work. This is the first noteworthy arm issue of Archer’s career and only the third IL stint of his eight-year career, though they have all happened within the last two seasons — Archer missed a month due to an abdominal strain in 2018, and right thumb inflammation cost him around three weeks earlier this year.
The seriousness of the shoulder issue isn’t yet known, though if it lingers, the Pirates could just decide to shut Archer down for the remainder of the season. It would bring an early end to what has been a discouraging campaign for Archer, with a career-high 5.19 ERA over 119 2/3 frames. That innings total would mark a new career low for Archer in his seven full MLB seasons, while also posting career worsts in walk rate (4.14 BB/9), grounder rate (36.3%), home run rate (20.2%), xwOBA (.346), and hard-hit ball rate (40.1%).
All in all, it has been a very unmemorable stint in Pittsburgh since Archer was acquired in a trade deadline deal in July 2018. The deal raised eyebrows at the time, and given that Austin Meadows and (pre-injury) Tyler Glasnow both emerged as key contributors for the Rays, the trade is now looking like a significant misfire for the Pirates’ front office.
Archer still has as many as two seasons to turn things around in the Steel City, as the Bucs hold club options on his services for 2020 ($9MM, $1.75MM buyout) and 2021 ($11MM, $250K buyout). Despite his struggles, it still seems very likely that the Pirates will exercise that 2020 option, given the uncertainty in the team’s 2020 rotation. Jameson Taillon will miss all of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery, leaving the Pirates with Archer in all likelihood, as well as some combination of Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller, Steven Brault, and others all in the mix. Since the Bucs are likely to pursue a veteran starter anyway this winter, keeping Archer at a relatively inexpensive price seems like a logical move, especially if Archer can recapture any of his past form.
Holmes has a 6.05 ERA, 1.54 K/BB rate, and 10.0 K/9 over 38 2/3 relief innings for Pittsburgh this season. Control has been a major concern for Holmes over his brief Major League career, as he has a 7.1 BB/9 over 65 frames for the Bucs in 2018-19. This is Holmes’ second trip to the IL in less than a month, as he only recently returned from an absence due to right triceps inflammation.