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My Case For Chris Archer

Cody Pirkl



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I've decided to continue exploring the trade market on the outside of the top tier today, just as I recently had with Marco Gonzales. This one in particular may take a leap of faith. I want to make a case for pulling off a trade for Chris Archer.


Chris Archer's fall from relative acedom has been quick and severe. You would never guess that he was a quality starter as recently as last season by many measures. He has become the poster boy of the laughingstock trade the Pirates made in 2018 that included a return of Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and significant prospect capital for the Rays. To say Archer stumbled in 2019, his first full season as a Pirate would be an understatement. He had a career worst ERA supported by his peripherals, likely as a result of a career worst BB/9 (4.14) and HR/9 (1.88) His groundball rate dropped by 8% from 2018 to 2019, a terrible strategy in the season of the juice ball. Archer did not even approach 150 innings for the first time since 2013. Even his durability as a starting pitcher was nowhere to be seen despite him only being 31 years old.


What could cause all of these changes for a pitcher who was rather effective for years before coming to Pittsburgh? Well the pitch mix tells an interesting story. Archer threw his slider less than he has any year since 2014 in favor of the fastball which was down a tick from 2018 to 94.2. This is a pitch that has been absolutely punished recently, producing a positive pitch vaue last in 2014. Archer has always been known for his devastating slider, and even in a 2019 season where he was tagged, it was by far his best pitch despite being thrown about 6% less.


The fix I have is fairly unimaginative for Archer. After watching our coaching staff oversee so many steps forward in pitching last season, I would love to see them get a crack at Archer. Ray Searage was once known as a pitching guru and helped revive the careers of pitchers like Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, as well as others. However, Searage more recently was let go from his job. We've seen Charlie Morton leave Pittsburgh and become a Cy Young candidate, Tyler Glasnow appears to have been held back in the black and gold as well. I'm not even going to get into Gerrit Cole. Archer may just not be the kind of pitcher that Ray Searage can improve. I may even argue that there's a possibility that he made him worse. 2019 was an all out aberration for Archer, who is due $20 million over the next two seasons where he will be 31 and 32 years old. This is an opportunity to buy about as low as can be. The Pirates wouldn't ask much for Archer in the way of prospects, as they look to shed payroll at the start of a lengthy rebuild.


Chris Archer's collapse parallels with his move to Pittsburgh, where he was overseen by a pitching coach who has commonly been accused of being passed over by analytics and the new age of pitching. His pitch mix changed ever so slightly in a season where we saw several career worsts. Amidst all of this, he still struck out 10.75 batters per 9, showing off his skills that appear to still be there. While he may also not be the big name Twins fans are looking for, he still has considerable upside. At the very least he has proven to be durable in just about every season until he sat out the end of 2019 with shoulder inflammation. If you believe in this coaching staff as much as I do, Chris Archer should be somebody to get excited about. I think the Pirates can survive one more terrible trade.



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All depends on the prospect cost but definitely worth checking into. I always felt Archer was a bit overrated but now he is at a low point and we need two more starters.

He is a classic guy who has under performed his peripherals for most of his career. That being said, if we can get him back into even the 4.00-4.50 ERA range and striking out 10+ per 9, he's a legitimate upper middle rotation pitcher. In terms of prospects, I'd assume the Pirates tendered him a contract for 2020 to try to get something out of him, but they can't expect much. Maybe they need middle infield depth which we're loaded with, or maybe they want a pitcher that could quickly make his way up to the majors like Griffin Jax. If we take the contract, the prospects involved should be an afterthought.

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Pittsburgh has a new manager and pitching coach. Wouldn't they want to see what Oscar Marin can do with him before cutting bait? I'm guessing the return will be higher than anticipated, being Pittsburgh gave up a ton to get Archer. 

It all comes down to whether or not they really think it pays off to keep that contract, which is 15% of their entire payroll slated for 2020, on a team that has plans to rebuild. They have a new GM as well, which means he has no reputation to tarnish by admitting that the Archer trade was terrible and flipping him for a couple prospects that could help in 2+ years when they hope to compete again. It may become a gamble for them to either trade the 31 year old coming off shoulder inflammation and a career worst year for what they can get, or hope he rebounds and flip him at the deadline or next offseason.

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I've broached this idea before myself. A return to the AL and working with Johnson just might right him. I never felt he was a #1 SP. Probably a #2 at his best. He accounted for IP and SO but never seemed to take his performance to the next level. Still, he was a quality pitcher and outstanding at times. 


The question really comes down to how Pittsburgh views him. Move on and get what you can for him? Or do you try for a big return to save face for the cost of the trade that acquired him? I'm not sure they have great leverage here.


Of course, they might also think they're own staff could fix him.


I'd definitely be interested.

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