clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Chris Archer

New, comments

The Yankees’ rotation could use a veteran starter like Archer. Is he the best choice?

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

At the end of October, the Pirates opted to buy out Archer’s contract for $250,000 rather than trigger his $11 million option for 2021. Archer, by most accounts, failed to live up to his promise in 2019, and considering he didn’t pitch in 2020 after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery, the Pirates’ decision to part ways with the right-hander isn’t totally unexpected. A number of teams, including the Yankees, could use a veteran starter like Archer to fill out their rotations. The question is, where does Archer provide the most value? And how attractive is he to the Yankees?

Would it be risky would it be to sign Archer to a one-year deal? Kind of. Archer had thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) surgery in June to address symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, which causes pinching and compression in the nerves connecting the neck and armpit area.

While there are success stories of pitchers undergoing TOS and returning to the mound in full form, it’s not guaranteed. The range of outcomes following this surgery vary quite a bit, unlike those of Tommy John surgery, rotator cuff repair and other arm/shoulder surgeries pitchers commonly undergo. In recent years, Matt Harvey is a notable example of a starter who struggled to regain his pitching ability following TOS surgery. (Over at FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe recently created an awesome sortable table listing pitchers who’ve undergone TOS and their respective outcomes post-surgery).

There hasn’t been much reporting on Archer’s rehab process, so it’s hard to know how much progress he’s making, or if he’s experienced any major setbacks. Of course, adding another starter who didn’t pitch in 2020 to the Yankees rotation isn’t ideal and the Yankees’ injury history might deter Cashman from signing a pitcher who is currently rehabbing an injury. On the other hand, Archer’s recent history also means his price tag will come at a steep discount. The Yankees love a good bargain, so Archer’s appeal depends on Cashman’s opinion regarding how much risk is involved in signing him.

Signing Archer to a one-year deal is risky — this we know. That said, the Yankees need to add depth to their starting rotation, which is missing a couple pieces. The team has remained tight-lipped about their intention regarding Masahiro Tanaka, who, according to rumors, will consider returning to Japan if the Yankees don’t re-sign him. We still don’t know when in 2021 Luis Severino will be ready to pitch again. The starting rotation will probably include two rookies and the team could really use an experienced journeyman to stabilize it. Lacking reliable starters has been the Yankees’ Achilles heel, especially in the postseason, for a few years now. Someone needs to fortify it.

Arguably, there are several starting pitchers on the free agent market who are better-suited for the third or fourth spot in the Yankees’ rotation. Jake Odorizzi has a more expansive pitch mix and is slightly younger than Archer, who will turn 33 during the 2021 MLB season. Signing Taijuan Walker would be cheaper and less risky. But the market for starting pitching is shallow and the options aren’t endless. A number of teams need to add depth to their starting rotation, and the Yankees need to act soon if they want to enjoy the fullest selection.