After being the team’s big acquisition at last year’s trade deadline, Chris Archer has struggled with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Last year at the trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to become “buyers” after it had appeared they would be “sellers” earlier in July and suddenly found themselves as the center of attention by acquiring Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer. It was a bold, yet risky move by Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who dealt his top two prospects in the organization (pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows) and also threw in 2017 first round pick pitcher Shane Baz.
It’s not just that the Pirates gave up their top young talent, but they did so for a guy who just turned 30 in 2019 and had been starting to take a dip in production. At the time of the trade, Archer posted a 4.31 ERA and a 3-5 record through 17 starts, clearly nothing to jump up and down about. The hope was that pitching coach Ray Searage would be able to work his magic like he did with A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano that turned their careers back around, but so far to no prevail.
Since joining the Pirates, Archer has made a combined 24 starts and has a 6-9 record with a 5.00 ERA and has a WHIP of 1.421. Teams have been getting to Archer early and especially with the long ball. In 2019, he is giving up 2.2 home runs per nine innings, which is by far the highest rate throughout his eight year career. What makes it worse is that Meadows and Glasnow are having breakout seasons in Tampa Bay. Meadows is currently hitting at a .297 clip with 12 homers and 41 RBI’s. As for Glasnow, he’s only become one of the league’s best arms with a 6-1 record and a ridiculous 1.86 ERA, not to mention his insane 55:9 strikeout to walk ratio.
So, onto the real question, can the Pirates afford to keep Archer on the roster?
At this rate, I would say no. Moving him to the bullpen is not an option. You have strong guys in the back end of the pen with Keone Kela, Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez and a strong middle relief guy with Liriano. The Pirates are paying him $7.5 million to start, not to be a middle/long relief guy that sees action a couple of times a week.
With the Pirates abundance of injuries in the starting rotation, it could be preventing them from making a move at this time. One option would be to designate Archer for assignment and give Liriano another crack at the rotation. That would give the Pirates the option to trade or release Archer if he clears waivers, which may be the club’s best option. The other option would be find the best suitor and just trade him straight up without going through the DFA process.
For Archer to remain with the organization, he is going to have to turn it around rather quickly and show he is worth holding onto. If he continues to be a liability, I strongly doubt that we will see him toeing the rubber at PNC Park come August or potentially earlier.