Chris Archer Returns to the Rays

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Why Fans Should Be Excited About Chris Archer’s Return to Tampa Bay

Chris Archer is back with the Tampa Bay Rays and there are many mixed feelings from the Rays faithful. His one-year, $6.5-million contract comes after the Rays let go their top two arms in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton.

Are the Rays so desperate for starting pitching that they reach for damaged goods or is Archer worth the one year risk? Here are a few reasons to be optimistic about the Rays Archer reunion.

The Trade

When hearing the name Chris Archer, the first thing most people think about is the lopsided trade. The Rays traded Archer in his prime to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for three impact names. For some reason, Rays fans feel compelled to not like Chris Archer for this move. They wanted him to struggle in Pittsburgh and he did. Now they don’t want to be a fan of him returning. The trade has become a laughing manner not only to with the Pirates and Rays, but to all of baseball. However, is Chris Archer really to blame? As far as Rays fans are concerned, the answer is no.

When the Rays traded Chris Archer, they simply got an offer they couldn’t refuse. Two-and-a-half years later, it’s clear to see they knew what they were doing. Tyler Glasnow will likely get the ball on Opening Day and Austin Meadows was the offensive MVP in 2019. None of this is Chris Archer’s fault. Rays fans should be thanking him. He was just a piece in the ever changing business transactions the Rays have been doing for the past decade.

Expectations

Another reason Rays fans should be excited is the fact that Archer doesn’t have to lead this team like he had to do in years past. Most fans forget that Archer was the Opening Day starter four-years in a row. That’s the most for the franchise. He will now be asked to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter with one of the best bullpens behind him.

It is unclear the direction the Rays will go with their starters, but Archer can easily perform in whatever task they ask of him. Slotting him in the three or four slot in the rotation and getting five innings out of him is not only viable, but something the Rays would gladly take. If 100% healthy, he should be given the ball every fifth day.

This is by far the best team he has pitched for. His prime years were the Post-Joe Maddon Era when the Rays finished below .500 for four straight seasons.  Prior to his 2019 season ending in injury, Archer was Mr. Reliable on the mound. From 2014-2017, he did not miss a single start, leading the league twice in games started over that span. Following a shortened season like last year, any team would be thankful to have a guy that can offer quality innings like him.

In addition, he will provide veteran leadership to young arms like Brent Honeywell and Luis Patino. Patino has the same makeup as a young Chris Archer. High-90’s velocity with a wipeout slider to put hitters away. Not a bad mentor for the young, 21-year old to work with. Honeywell has the same fiery competitive nature as Archer and should push each other in a positive way.

Hungry and Healthy

If the first two things weren’t enough to get excited about, then just look at what this opportunity does for the 32-year old Chris Archer. The baseball world thinks he is done. He was on the wrong side of a lopsided trade. Also, Archer finds himself battling back from injury and a declined option. Sure he could sign a low incentive based deal, maybe even a minor league deal elsewhere, but where is the confidence in that? Now with a one year deal, with a ball club that he is familiar with, the stars are aligning nicely for a great bounce back in his career.

Rays fans should accept him as a quality middle of the rotation starter with upside. In that role, he will have the opportunity to do great things.  As stated before, the weight is off his shoulders of having to carry the rotation. The Rays have been known to help players land on their feet and Chris Archer looks to be their 2021 example of that.

Working With Wacha

Chris Archer and Tyler Glasnow both could really use an effective changeup to take them to the next level. Michael Wacha has that changeup. It’s been his best weapon for his career and hopefully he can help Glasnow and Archer with it.

Archer experimented in Pittsburgh with a sinker as well as a curveball. He went back to his fastball/slider combination and pitched better before getting hurt. Adding a changeup that he can trust could go a long way to extending his career.

Bottom Line

Rays fans should expect a Chris Archer somewhere between his prime and his 2019 fallback. If they get that, then there is no reason to not be excited for this move. A veteran starter who can strike hitters out, while giving them length and leadership. 2021 was already said to be a transitional year for the Rays rotation. The worse case scenario is probably what to do with him in 2022 if he exceeds expectations. A fun problem the Rays would gladly explore if it comes down to that.

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Players Mentioned: Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Austin Meadows, Brent Honeywell, Luis Patino, Michael Wacha

Manager Mentioned: Joe Maddon