How the Loss of Chris Archer Impacts the Pittsburgh Pirates


If there is a 2020 season the Pittsburgh Pirates will be without Chris Archer. How will this impact their starting rotation?

It remains to be seen if there will be a 2020 MLB season. Odds are, the owners and players will eventual reach a deal to prevent the loss of a season. But until that is official, fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates and every other MLB team are stuck waiting and hoping for the best.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates revealed that right-handed starting pitcher Chris Archer has undergone thoracic outlet surgery. Due to this, if there is a 2020 season, Archer will miss the entirety of it. How does this news impact the Pirates’ starting rotation for any potential 2020 season?

Before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown spring training, the Pittsburgh Pirates had four of their five rotation spots locked up. These four spots belonged to Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, and Mitch Keller. This left three pitcher battling for the rotation spot.

The three pitchers battling for that spot were veteran lefty Derek Holland, Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl. Due to his track record and his success this spring, Holland appeared to have grabbed the final rotation spot by the horns. So, it is safe to assume he will be in the team’s starting rotation if/when the season begins. Now, with Archer out for the year, Brault and Kuhl will have opportunity in front of them.

Both Brault and Kuhl were likely going to make the Opening Day bullpen. While Kuhl could have been sent to Triple-A to work as a starting pitcher as he works his way back from Tommy John Surgery, it appeared the Pirates were going to content with rolling with Kuhl as a long man in the bullpen as they continued to rebuild his arm strength and stretch him back out before he made his return to the starting rotation.

If there is a ‘spring training 2.0’ the battle for the final rotation spot would appear to be between Brault and Kuhl. Who wins it could hinge on who pitches better, as well as how far along the Pittsburgh Pirates brass believes Kuhl is in his recovery. With Archer on the shelf, look for either Brault or Kuhl to win the final spot in the team’s starting rotation, while the other finds themselves in the Pirate bullpen.

The loss of Archer will also have ramifications outside of the starting rotation. If there are trades in season, Archer was going to be one of the team’s best trade chips. Now, obviously, his trade value is gone.

Furthermore, Archer’s future as a Pirate will now be in doubt. In addition to there being questions about a pitcher’s effectiveness and ability to return following this surgery, he will now hit free agency after the season. Due to this injury, there is no shot that the Pirates will pick up Archer’s $11 million option for next season.

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When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Archer at the 2018 trade deadline it was one of the biggest splash trades in franchise history. Unfortunately, the trade has been a disaster for the Pirates. In addition to Archer pitching the worst baseball of his MLB career in Pittsburgh, he has also been riddled by injury. Adding insult to injury, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, the two main pieces the Pirates gave up for Archer, have turned into stars in Tampa Bay.

While the Archer trade may not have worked out on the field for the Bucs, Chris has been a terrific addition to the Pittsburgh community. He is always active in the community and has a big heart. His infectious personality had fans excited about the trade at the time it occurred, and created an electric atmosphere at PNC Park the night of his first Pirate start. There is little doubt that Arch has a long, successful broadcasting career ahead of him if he’d so choose when his playing days are done.