Update (10:11): The two club options are worth $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021 via Jerry Crasnick. The deal is worth $25.5 million if Archer were indeed to qualify as a Super Two player as expected, but would be worth less if he does not. There is also a $500k bonus if he is traded to another club. (Hat tip to Jeff Passan for the info).
As Ken Rosenthal tweets, Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed on a 6-year extension. The deal is worth around $25 million with two club options on the end, and will cover Archers’ final two pre-arbitration years, and his four arbitration years (he was almost guaranteed to be a super two player). Final info on the deal is expected at a 12:00 ET press conference.
Archer, who came over from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, saw his first extended big league action last season and impressed, posting a 3.22 ERA, 7.1 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9. He also averaged over 95 MPH on his fastball, most in the American League. The scary thing about those numbers is that the development of his changeup could lead to even more strikeouts. His fastball-slider combination is among the big league’s best, but his changeup had lagged way behind his whole career. This spring, it has taken huge strides, leading many scouts to label the pitch as above-average or plus. Archer with the newfound changeup could be even better than he was last season.
Where Archer really needs to prove himself is with his command. His career minor league BB/9 is an unsightly 5.0, but that fell to a great 2.7 BB/9 in 2013. So the big question becomes can he maintain that level? His mechanics have gotten significantly more consistent over the past couple of years, so while he might not quite sustain the 2.7 BB/9, he should be much better than 5.0. He was thought to be a number 2-3 starter because of the command issues, but if he can stay around last season’s levels, he could develop into a true ace of the rotation. That gives the Rays three pitchers in Archer, Alex Cobb, and Matt Moore that could all be no. 1 caliber pitchers sooner rather than later.
We all know that the Rays need to find bargains to stay competitive, and that is what they have done here. Locking up Archer on the cheap gives them payroll flexibility down the line and allows the Rays to get him for much less money that he would likely be making through arbitration/free agency. Archer in turn sees the injury risk of being a pitcher, so he takes guaranteed money upfront at the expense of a potentially bigger payday down the line. It is a risk for the Rays because of the injury nature of pitchers, but one well worth it if Archer can stay healthy and contribute to the Rays’ rotation.
Overall, a solid move by the Rays. When you are a small market team, you have to take some risks in order to lock up key players long term. It has worked out great with guys like Evan Longoria, but sometimes long-term deals don’t work out (Wade Davis‘ deal didn’t, but the Rays managed to trade him away). We will have to see how it turns out in the long run, but $25 million over 6 years is a small price to pay a top of the rotation starter. If Chris Archer can stay healthy, then Andrew Friedman will have another steal.