Evaluating Chris Archer as a St. Louis Cardinals free-agent target

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Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field on September 04, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field on September 04, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Chris Archer makes sense as a cheap one-year option for the St. Louis Cardinals as a free-agent target, but they should look elsewhere.

I’ll be honest, I had not considered Chris Archer as a possibility for the St. Louis Cardinals until Redbird Rants’ Miranda Remaklus wrote about it Saturday morning. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it makes sense.

First, Archer is a strong candidate to sign a cheap one-year deal, which is what the Cardinals are eyeing in a sixth starter. Second, he has a previous track record of being a high-end starting pitcher, so he certainly comes with upside.

The problem is that Archer, 33, has not been that level of pitcher since 2015 (3.23 ERA) when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays. His career took a sharp downward spiral after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he posted ERAs of 4.30 and 5.19 before missing the entire 2020 season after undergoing surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.

The trade, which sent Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz to the Rays, will go down as one of the worst trades in recent history. Archer never pitched again for the Pirates while Archer re-signed with the Rays in hopes of rebuilding his value. But he posted a 5.12 ERA in 19.1 innings and required season-ending hip surgery.

Perhaps being a full year removed from the thoracic outlet surgery helps Archer in 2021. But in a season that is pivotal for the Cardinals, where they want to maximize the roster’s talent in hopes of winning a World Series before Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina retire, it’s likely that they go in a different direction than Archer.

There are plenty of options for the Cardinals to consider, however, and they could still keep an eye on Archer. After all, the Rays, who are arguably the most progressive team in baseball, saw enough in him to take a flier on him on a one-year contract.

Next. Ranking the 10 best contracts in recent St. Louis Cardinals history. dark

Maybe the Cardinals do the same. But my best guess is they ultimately look elsewhere.

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