Neither the Pirates nor their long-suffering fans needed more unfortunate news Wednesday, but they received some centering on one of the team’s most prominent players. The club announced that right-hander Chris Archer underwent the dreaded thoracic outlet syndrome surgery on Tuesday, meaning he won’t play in 2020 if there is a season.
While the team believes Archer will be ready to return in 2021, it’s very much up in the air whether he will pitch for the Pirates again. The club does have Archer’s rights for ’21 by way of an option worth $11MM, but it could choose to buy him out instead for a relatively paltry $250K. In light of the surgery – not to mention the money the low-budget Pirates would save (which could be all the more important for them in these uncertain economic times) and Archer’s uninspiring production in their uniform – it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bucs cut ties with him in a few months.
It’s well known by now to everyone who closely follows the majors, but here’s yet another reminder: Archer joined Pittsburgh in a 2018 trade with the Rays that looked like one of the worst in Pirates history even before Wednesday’s developments. The Pirates and then-general manager Neal Huntington thought they were acquiring a front-end, reasonably priced starter in Archer, who was then 29 and someone who had recorded a 3.69 ERA/3.48 FIP with more than a strikeout per inning in 1,063 frames as a Ray. Since Archer got to Pittsburgh, though, his run prevention has gone in the tank. While he has struck out almost 11 batters per nine, he has also logged a less-than-stellar 4.92 ERA/4.71 FIP over 172 innings as a Pirate.
The Rays, for their part, are no doubt pleased with their end of the trade. They came away with outfielder Austin Meadows and righty Tyler Glasnow, who were promising prospects as Pirates and who have since proven their worth in the majors. The 25-year-old Meadows was a 4.0-fWAR player with 33 home runs a season ago. Glasnow missed a substantial amount of time with injuries in 2019, but the towering 26-year-old was a force during the 60 2/3 innings he did accrue, as he owned hitters with a 1.78 ERA/2.26 FIP, 11.27 K/9 against 2.08 BB/9, and a 50.4 percent groundball rate.
Now more than ever before, it appears the Pirates are going to rue making this deal. So, perhaps they’ll regard it as a sunk cost and decline Archer’s option when the time comes, especially considering new GM Ben Cherington has no connection to the trade that brought the hurler to the Steel City. As you’d expect, though, Cherington suggested Wednesday he hasn’t closed the door on retaining Archer.
“We won’t have games to evaluate, but there will be other information that we have at that time that we don’t have now,” Cherington told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We want to take all the time we possibly can until we have no time remaining, and then make the best decision we can at that time.”
Cherington would probably like to at least get something for Archer in a trade, but that may be impossible to ask now that he’s coming off TOS surgery. Regardless, do you think Archer is done as a Pirate?
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