The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced that Chris Archer will undergo surgery.
Archer is expected to be ready for the 2021 season, but has he thrown his last pitch in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform? It seems very likely.
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Archer’s contract has an $11million club option for 2021, with a $250,000 buyout available to the Pirates. The 31-year-old starter has struggled since coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays, in what is quickly becoming one of the more lopsided trades in Pirates franchise history, and when you combine the current financial state of baseball, a team like the Pirates may not be willing to pay $11 million to a pitcher coming off a major surgery with a small track record of successful bounce-back candidates.
In 23 starts with the Pirates last season, Archer compiled a 3-9 record with a career-high 5.19 ERA (5.02 FIP) and a 10.5% walk rate. He was worth 0.7 fWAR, a continued downturn since his 4.5 fWAR in 2017 with the Rays.
There’s still an opportunity that Archer could return to Pittsburgh if the Pirates believe he is a strong candidate to rebound and contribute in 2021. It should be safe to assume that not many teams will be lining up to sign Archer to a big contract if Pittsburgh buys out his contract at the end of this season.
As discussed by MLB.com’s Adam Berry back in February, Archer was a favorite topic of discussion when looking at potential bounce-back candidates in 2020. Abandoning his two-seam fastball and going back to his roots that made him a successful major league pitcher seemed to help.
Archer closed out 2019 with four August starts, striking 27 and walking 4 in 18 innings. After giving up 25 home runs in his first 19 starts, he gave up none during the month of August. Unfortunately, he finished the season on the disabled list.
For now, Archer’s surgery is a bit of blow to the Pirates in 2020. In a shortened season with expanded rosters, the Pirates would have had the opportunity to limit Archer’s starts and keep him fresh for a playoff push. Alternatively, he could have emerged as a valuable trade chip, if that bounce-back would have occurred.
Here’s to hoping that Chris Archer is able to return in 2021 and give us at least a glimpse of the old Archer who was able to find success in the always daunting American League East.