CHRIS ARCHER, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 26, 1988
Height: 6′ 2″
Drafted: 5th Round, 161st Overall, 2006 (Indians)
How Acquired: Trade (from Tampa Bay)
High School: Clayton (NC) HS
Agent: The Legacy Agency
WTM’s PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Cleveland drafted Archer out of high school and he developed slowly with them. After three years he went to the Cubs in a relatively minor trade and quickly became a top prospect. He finally reached the majors with Tampa Bay after the Cubs sent him to the Rays for Matt Garza. Archer established himself in the Rays’ rotation as a very good starter but not quite an ace. From 2014 through 2017 he was very durable, starting between 32 and 34 games every year. After very strong seasons in 2014-15, he got weaker results over the next two years, although advanced metrics like xFIP showed him performing better than the traditional stats indicated.
Archer throws a four-seam fastball that sits around 95 mph and tops out at 99. His out pitch is an 88 mph slider that he throws about as often as his fastball. He also throws a change. He’s a modest groundball pitcher, generally getting grounders at about a 45% rate. He’s had a mild platoon split, with left-handed batters posting an OPS of .701 against him and right-handed batters .647. The Pirates acquired Archer at the 2018 trade deadline for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a PTBNL that turned out to be 2017 first-rounder Shane Baz.
Archer struggled in his debut in rookie ball, although he at least missed some bats.
Back in rookie ball, Archer improved only a little, outside of his control being much better.
The Indians moved Archer up to full season ball and he got through a season in the rotation. He had control problems, but opponents batted only .220 and slugged only .320 against him. After the season Cleveland traded him to the Cubs.
The Cubs sent Archer back to low A and he made significant progress. Walks remained a problem, but opponents batted only .202 and slugged just .246 against him. He didn’t allow a single home run all year. Baseball America ranked Archer 15th in the Cubs’ system after the season.
Archer split the season between high A and AA, and was very successful at both levels. Control was a problem in AA, but he allowed only 48 hits in 70 innings. Overall on the season, opponents had a 200/294/281 line against him, with just six longballs in 142.1 IP. BA rated him the Cubs’ best prospect after the season. Chicago added Archer to their 40-man roster after the season, but traded him in January to Tampa Bay as part of a package for Matt Garza.
The Rays sent Archer back to AA and he got off to a rough start. After struggling for two months, he pitched better over the rest of the season, including a two-game stint in AAA to finish the year. BA rated him third in the Rays’ system.
Archer pitched well in AAA without dominating, with control remaining an issue. He pitched better, though, as the season went along. The Rays called him up for two starts in June, then he returned in September. He pitched better in the majors than his ERA indicates, as shown by his xFIP of 3.42.
The Rays sent Archer back to AAA, but they called him up at the beginning of June and he stayed in their rotation the rest of the year. He was more effective in the majors than in AAA, showing much improved control and allowing hitters just a .660 OPS. He had some issues with gopher balls, allowing 15.
At the beginning of the season, Archer signed a six-year contract extension, guaranteed through 2019 and with team options for 2020 and 2021. He then made 32 starts for the Rays, with good numbers across the board. His 3.70 xFIP was only a little higher than his ERA and he allowed only a dozen home runs.
Archer had his best season, with a career-best ERA and xFIP (3.01), and a career high in innings.
Archer had a difficult season, tying James Shields for the major league lead in losses. A lot of his trouble came from gopher balls, as he allowed 30. His xFIP of 3.41 suggests he pitched better than the results indicate, as do his walk and K rates.
Archer’s 2017 season was similar to the previous one, with gopher balls (27) again posing a problem. His xFIP (3.35) again was better than his ERA.
Archer continued partially in the same vein as the two previous seasons, although he did get hit harder. Rays’ opponents put up a 271/332/419 line against him. He was out from early June through early July with an abdominal strain. His xFIP with the Rays was 3.62. Tampa Bay traded him to the Pirates at the trade deadline for three of the Pirates’ best prospects. Archer got off to an inauspicious start for the Pirates, with a 6.45 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in five August starts. He came around in September, though, with a 2.70 ERA in five starts, striking out 36 and allowing 23 hits and nine walks in 30 innings. The Pirates shut Archer down before his final start due to continuing discomfort from a groin strain he’d suffered earlier in the year. It’s not clear whether that injury might have affected him during the season. As with the Rays, his xFIP with the Pirates (3.53) was better than his ERA. Home runs were a problem after the trade, as he allowed one every six and a half innings. On the season as a whole, Archer got hit hard for a pitcher with his stuff, allowing opponents a 268/330/437 line.
Archer’s first full season with the Pirates was a disaster. He pitched well through his first three games, but things went rapidly downhill from there, as he was beset both by control problems and gopher balls. At one point, he allowed at least one HR in ten straight starts and 15 of 16. Archer continued to rack up strikeouts, but 25 HRs (nearly two per nine innings) and the high walk rate swamped the strikeouts. His FIP of 5.02 illustrated the futility of the swings and misses. Even his xFIP, which normalizes HR rate, was 4.37. Some of the problem resulted from Archer attempting to throw a two-seam fastball, in keeping with the Pirates’ obsession with groundballs. His two-seamer was by some measures the single worst pitch in all of baseball, as it had very little sink; opponents slugged .815 against it. Archer finally abandoned the pitch in mid-June and he pitched somewhat better afterwards. He had a good month of August, with an ERA of 3.00 in 18 innings, but on August 20 he left his start with shoulder inflammation, from which he didn’t return. He also missed half of May with inflammation in his thumb, so in all he made just 23 starts.
In early June, the Pirates out of the blue announced that Archer had undergone thoracic outlet surgery. The surgery ended any chances he had of pitching in whatever 2020 season took place. He’s expected to be ready for 2021, but with an $11M team option for 2021 and a front office in extreme payroll-cutting mode, there’s a real chance Archer has pitched his last game for the Pirates. It doesn’t help that the track record for pitchers trying to return from thoracic outlet surgery is very poor.
The Archer trade may have been a watershed moment for former GM Neal Huntington’s tenure. The three players the Pirates gave up all had breakout seasons with the Rays, Baz’ coming in class A, leaving the trade likely to become one of the worst in modern baseball history. Like Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole before them, Glasnow and Baz immediately started pitching dramatically better as soon as they got away from the Pirates, although Glasnow missed half the season with an injury. The trade revealed myriad serious problems with the Pirates, including their inability to evaluate talent, to develop prospects and to handle pitchers. The new GM hopefully will address all these problems. Most disturbing, though, was what the trade revealed about the team’s business philosophy. The Pirates traded three players with very high ceilings but some risk for a declining pitcher with several years of below-market control left. The only plausible explanation is that they were sacrificing a chance to win in the future for “safe,” affordable mediocrity. Whether that approach changes will be up to the owner.
|2021: $11,000,000 (team option – $250,000 buyout)
2020: $9,000,000 (team option – $1,750,000 buyout)
|Signing Bonus: $161,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 6/20/2012
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2021 (if options exercised)
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/19/10
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2011, 2012, 2013)
MLB Service Time: 7.156
|June 7, 2006: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round, 161st overall pick; signed on July 9.
December 31, 2008: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Jeff Stevens and John Gaub to the Chicago Cubs for Mark DeRosa.
November 19, 2010: Contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.
January 7, 2011: Traded by the Chicago Cubs with Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup.
July 31, 2018: Traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz.