The Pittsburgh Pirates did it. They actually did it. They made a big splash at the trade deadline. Nobody, myself included, ever thought this moment would come. But here we are. Starting pitcher Chris Archer is a Pirate.
Don’t get it twisted, the cost for Archer was heavy. Both Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow still have superstar potential. They’re both still very young, 23 and 24 years old respectively. It has been reported that the third piece in the deal will be of “significant” value.
This deal could very well blow up in the Pirates’ faces five years down the line. That doesn’t matter right now. Yes, right now. As followers of the team, we don’t get to say the words “right now” very often. That is no longer the case. The Pirates acquired a starting pitcher with ace stuff. The expectations will be sky high. What kind of results should we expect?
Archer will turn 30 next month. He will be under team control for three years after this year. This deal helps the Pirates both in the short and intermediate term if Archer lives up to the hype.
This season, he is 3-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 96 innings pitched. Archer has an xFIP of 3.62 so he has pitched better than his numbers may suggest. His strikeout rate sits at 24.7 percent. His walk rate 7.5 percent. Archer generates ground balls at a 44.7 percent clip.
One concern with Archer is the uptick in hard contact given up. This year, he’s giving up hard contact 40.2 percent of the time. Last year, that rate was 39.4 percent. Before last year, his hard hit against rate never exceeded 33 percent.
Archer has a traditional pitch mix as he throws a fastball, slider, and changeup. This season, he has thrown his slider (42.7 percent) nearly as much as his fastball (45.6 percent). Archer will also sprinkle in the changeup about a tenth of the time. On rare occasion, he will flip in a curveball.
Although his fastball is spicy, averaging nearly 95 mph, it has gotten smashed this season. Opponents are hitting .301/.394/.504 against his heat. Those are All-Star type numbers. Not great. The slider has been pretty good this year, but not up to career standards. This season, opponents are hitting .256/.302/.407 against it. For his career, the line against his slider is .205/.249/.321. Archer may be better served to mix in his changeup more often as opponents have hit just .217/.245/.239 against it this season.
Gut reaction/future prediction
I did not think this deal would get done. I just didn’t. It never occurred to me that Neal Huntington would have the brass to pull the trigger on such a move. I give him credit though. Archer has been a target of Huntington for quite some time. Kudos to Neal. He pulled it off.
To me, the Chris Archer trade reminds me a little of the AJ Burnett trade, except on a way bigger scale. Yes, one happened at the trade deadline and the other in the offseason. Sure, Burnett was seen as past his prime and Archer is at “in prime” age.
But both are strikeout guys. Both came from the elite hitting AL East to the much more pitcher friendly National League. Burnett brought a certain flair and confidence to a young staff that needed guidance back in 2012. I believe Archer can have a similar effect on this current staff.
Hot take time
In his three future years in Pittsburgh (barring a trade), I believe Archer will compete for a Cy Young award in the National League. He will rack up 220+ strikeouts per year and have an ERA in the low threes. He will be this team’s ace and anchor a rotation with young guns who continue to progress.
At worst, Archer is a middle of the rotation arm. With Jameson Taillon progressing and Mitch Keller on the way, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Not bad for a worst case scenario.
I doubt that happens though. The expectations for Archer will be high in Pittsburgh, no doubt. But to me, this trade just feels right. I believe the move to Pittsburgh will be just what Archer needs to rejuvenate his career.
The city is more than excited to have him.