Pirates SP Chris Archer undergoes surgery, to miss 2020 season

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chris Archer

While there’s still uncertainty surrounding a 2020 season, there is at least one definitive: Chris Archer won’t be pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates starting pitcher underwent surgery on Tuesday to relieve the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. Archer had initially experienced pain in his neck and shoulder during Spring Training, and the symptoms continued following the league’s hiatus. After participating in his pitching program for the past few months, Archer ultimately decided to undergo the knife.

Recovery time is estimated to be between six and eight months, meaning Archer will effectively miss the 2020 campaign.

After making a pair of All Star games during his six-plus seasons with the Rays, Tampa Bay dealt Archer to Pittsburgh during the 2018 season. The Pirates gave up a considerable haul to acquire the ace, including talented pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows (who ended up being an All Star last season).

Archer was ordinary during his 10 starts with the Pirates in 2018, going 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA. The Pirates narrowly missed the playoffs, but there was some optimism that they’d build off their 83-win season. Instead, the Pirates took a step back in 2019, and Archer’s performance certainly didn’t help. The 31-year-old ended up starting 23 games for Pittsburgh, going 3-9 with a 5.19 ERA. It was easily Archer’s worst pitching performance of his eight-year career.

Unfortunately, that might be all the Pirates get from the talented pitcher. Archer has an $11M team option for 2021 (with a $250K buyout), and the front office will have to make a decision before Archer is recovered from his surgery.

Longtime general manager Neal Huntington was the one who made the initial trade for Archer, but he’s since been replaced by Ben Cherington. With a new administration, the Pirates could decide to cut their losses and move on from the veteran starting pitcher. Considering Archer’s performance during his Pirates tenure, it seems more likely that Pittsburgh will let the pitcher hit free agency.

Archer won’t be the only Pirates starter to miss a hypothetical 2020 season. Jameson Taillon had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery on his elbow, forcing him to be sidelined until at least 2021. As a result, the Pirates pitching staff is currently headlined by Joe Musgrave and his 4.37 career ERA. In other words, there’s not a whole lot of reason for Pittsburgh heading into the season.

After collecting three-straight playoff appearances between 2013 and 2015, it looks like the organization will miss the postseason for a fifth-straight season in 2020. With a new front office leading the way, there could be some more major changes to the roster when the league resumes.

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