Christopher Alan Archer
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Clayton (NC) High School
- Debut June 20, 2012
Chris was signed by the Cleveland Indians and scout Bob Mayer as the 5th-round pick in the 2006 amateur draft. The next three picks were all fellow pitchers who wound up in the majors: David Herndon, Dustin Richardson and George Kontos. In his first summer as a pro, he was with the GCL Indians (0-3, 7.45, 17 walks in 19 1/3 innings) and Burlington Indians (2 R in 1 2/3 innings). In 2007, he was roughed up with the GCL Indians (1-7, 5.64) and Lake County Captains (4 R in 4 innings). He tied for 7th in the Gulf Coast League with nine wild pitches and tied Aaron Furhman and Gregorio Rosario for the GCL loss lead. In 2008, the teenager was 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA for Lake County, with 84 walks and 18 wild pitches in 115 1/3 innings. He led the South Atlantic League in walks and was third in wild pitches behind Maikel Cleto and Michael Felix. Following that season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs with pitchers John Gaub and Jeff Stevens for Mark DeRosa.
Cubs and Team USA
Archer showed good progress with the 2009 Peoria Chiefs, going 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA. He still walked 66 and threw 10 wild pitches in 109 innings but fanned 119 and allowed a .202 opponent average. He did not give up a home run all year. He tied Tyler Chatwood for second in the Midwest League in free passes, behind Evan Frederickson. Baseball America rated him the #16 MWL prospect, between James Darnell and Kyle Russell. In 2010, he was lights out for the Daytona Cubs (7-1, 2.86, 82 K in 72 1/3 innings, .202 opponent average) and Tennessee Smokies (8-2, 1.80, 67 K, 39 BB, .198 opponent average in 70 innings). He did not allow an earned run in his first 31 1/3 innings in AA. For the season, he was third in the affiliated minors in wins (after Eric Hacker and Tom Koehler), third in opponent average (behind Matt Magill and Joseph Gardner) and 7th in ERA. He led Cubs farmhands in all three pitching Triple Crown departments. Baseball America rated him the #1 Cubs prospect and having the best slider in the Chicago minors. They also listed him the #2 FSL prospect (after Matt Moore) and #9 in the Southern League (between Brett Jackson and Matt Dominguez). In the 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament, he was 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA for Team USA. He led the US staff with 15 whiffs as they qualified for both the 2011 Baseball World Cup and 2011 Pan American Games. He struck out 10 in a 2-hit, no-run, 6-inning gem to beat Cuba.
He was promptly dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays, with Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Hak-ju Lee, in return for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup on January 8, 2011. He had mediocre numbers with the Montgomery Biscuits (8-7, 4.42, 80 BB in 134 1/3 innings) and excelled in two late-season starts for the Durham Bulls (1-0, 0.69) before losing one playoff game for Durham. Baseball America rated him the Rays' #3 prospect, after Matt Moore and Lee, and having the best slider in their organization. He led the Southern League with 16 wild pitches, was 3rd in walks and ranked 6th in strikeouts (between Chris Withrow and Wily Peralta. Archer began 2012 with Durham and had a 4-8, 4.81 record, albeit with 90 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings, after 14 starts. He was among the International League top five in both losses and walks (45) but was leading in strikeouts at the time.
He was then called up to replace the injured Jeremy Hellickson. Chris was charged with the loss in his major league debut with the Rays on June 20, 2012. Facing the Washington Nationals, he gave up three runs on as many hits in 6 innings, but as the Rays were facing Stephen Strasburg, that was enough to give him a 3-2 loss. Still, only one of the runs was earned, and he struck out 7 while walking only one. He ended up pitching 6 games, four of them starts, with a record of 1-3, 4.60 in 29 1/3 innings. At Durham, he finished the season 7-9, 3.66 in 25 starts, pitching 128 innings and racking up an impressive 139 strikeouts. He led the 2012 IL in strikeouts, one ahead of Justin Wilson, and K/9. Baseball America ranked him the league's third-best prospect after Matt Harvey and Starling Marte.
There was speculation that Archer would be in the Rays' starting rotation in 2013, especially after the Rays had traded two starters, James Shields and Wade Davis, in the offseason. He began the year back at Durham, with veteran Roberto Hernandez signed to fill the empty slot in the rotation. He was 5-3, 3.96 in 10 starts in AAA when he got the call to Tampa at the beginning of June. He went 1-3, 5.03 in his first four starts before reeling off the sort of performance that had been expected of him for a while when he defeated the New York Yankees, 3-1, at New Yankee Stadium on June 23rd. He gave up a 1st-inning run then kept the Yankees from scoring for the next five innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the bottom of the 7th, after his teammates scored a pair of runs in the top of the frame to take the lead. He recorded his first career shutout July 14th against the Houston Astros, a 5-0 five-hitter that improved his record to 4-3. Two starts later, on July 27th, he pitched a two-hitter over the Yankees at New Yankee Stadium for a 1-0 win and his second career shutout. He was named the American League Pitcher of the Month and Rookie of the Month for July after going 4-0, 0.73 during the month. Overall, he made 23 starts during the season, going 9-7, 3.22. His two shutouts were tied for third in the league, one behind Bartolo Colon and Justin Masterson. Had he qualified, he would have been 9th in ERA, between James Shields and Ervin Santana. He was in the bullpen during the ALDS and it was Jeremy Hellickson, who had struggled during the year, who started Game 4 against the Boston Red Sox. Chris, for his part, was used twice in relief in the series, giving up no runs in 1 2/3 innings.
At the start of the 2014 season, the Rays confirmed their confidence in Archer over the long-term as they signed him to a six-year extension with options for two other seasons; he was guaranteed $25.5 million until 2019, with the deal worth up to $43.75 million if extended the other two years. In his first start of the year, on April 3rd, he defeated the Blue Jays, 7-2, allowing 2 runs while striking out 7 in 6 innings. He had another good season, going 10-9, 3.33, in 32 starts and pitching 194 2/3 innings during which he struck out 173. After the season, he visited South Africa as a Major League Baseball ambassador. He started 2015 on a roll as he went four consecutive starts without giving up an earned run from April 11-26. His ERA stood at 0.84 after the streak, but his record was only 3-2, the result of losing his first start before the streak started, and losing to the Boston Red Sox, 1-0, on April 21st in a game in which he only allowed an unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. On June 2nd, he tied a Rays team record set by James Shields in 2012 by striking out 15 batters in 8 innings in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; he also walked none in a dominating performance. On June 7th, he became the first pitcher to record at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in three consecutive starts; the feat may have been accomplished before 1914, but game-by-game data was only available dating back to that year. He improved to 7-4 with a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners that day. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time. On August 20th, he pitched a one-hitter in which he struck out 11 opponents in shutting out the Houston Astros, 1-0. The only hit was a 5th-inning single by Colby Rasmus. It was the first complete game by a Rays pitcher in almost a year, the last one having come from Drew Smyly on August 22, 2014. He finished the season with a record of 12-13, 3.23, leading the major leagues with 34 starts and striking out 252 batters in 212 innings. Archer worked as a guest analyst on ESPN's pre-game show before the 2015 American League Wild Card Game and impressed everyone with his natural ability behind a microphone.
Just as he was emerging as one of baseball's rising young stars, he had a tough season in 2016. It was not that he pitched poorly, but he seemed to always end up on the wrong side of the decision in tight games. On September 23rd, after another good start, he was charged with a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, his only mistake having been to give up a monster home run to David Ortiz in the 1st inning. It was his 19th loss of the year, setting a new franchise record for the Rays, passing Tanyon Sturtze who had lost 18 in 2002 when the team was still known as the Devil Rays. He took the mound one final time on September 29th with the risk that he could become the first twenty-game loser in the majors since Mike Maroth in 2003, but he pitched well, giving up 3 runs in 6 2/3 innings and for once his offense backed him up to give him a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. He finished the year at 9-19 and once again topped the 200 inning mark, with 201 1/3. While his ERA was 4.02, his highest since his debut season, he did strike out 233 batters, second-most in the AL.
He had quite similar rate stats in 2017, but ended up with a better won/loss record at 10-12. His 34 starts again were the most in the American League, he was an All-Star for the second time, his ERA was virtually uncharged at 4.07, he pitched almost exactly as many innings (201), gave up a few more hits and came within 3 strikeouts of his personal best with 249. The Rays made many changes after the season, including trading club pillar Evan Longoria and letting go of key performers like first baseman Logan Morrison and outfielder Corey Dickerson, leaving Archer as one of the few high-profile members of the team at the start of 2018. He was designated the Opening Day starter for the fourth straight year. He went 3-5, 4.31 in 17 starts before the inevitable trade took place, on July 31st. What was surprising was the landing spot...
...as he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who many thought would be sellers, in return for two young major leaguers, pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows, and a player to be named later. That unnamed player turned out to be a top prospect, as on August 14th, Pittsburgh sent Shane Baz, their top pick in 2017, to Tampa to complete the trade. Chris went 3-3, 4.30 in 10 games for Pittsburgh to finish with a combined mark of 6-8 4.31, logging 148 1/3 innings. Chris was back with Pittsburgh in 2019. He did not allow a run in his first outing on April 1st, then followed with his first win on April 8th, when he gave up 3 runs in 6 innings against the Cincinnati Reds. In that game, he was involved in a controversy in the 4th inning, when he threw a pitch behind Derek Dietrich, who had hit a homer earlier in the game and - horrible sin! - stood to admire its trajectory into the Allegheny River. Yasiel Puig came out to defend his teammate, taking on the whole Pirates team almost by himself, and at the end of the fracas, five players and coaches were ejected - but not Archer. Two days later, after the Commissioner's office had had a chance to review the incident, he was handed a five-game suspension for deliberately throwing at an opposing batter (Puig and his manager, David Bell, were also suspended). He missed time with injury in 2019, ultimately finishing with a disappointing 3-9, 5.19 mark in 23 starts, striking out 143 in 119 2/3 innings.
He had more injury issues in spring training in 2020, this time tightness in his neck, before camp was stopped by the coronavirus pandemic. With baseball still on hold on June 3rd, he announced that he would undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, and that it would cost him the entire season - if any baseball was played - as a result. It was complicated to come to this decision, as he did not experience the typical symptoms of the syndrome, but physicians came to the conclusion that this was the best course. It left the Pirates in a quandary, as they would need to decide whether to pick up his option for 2021, or cut their losses, accepting that the trade to acquire him was one of the worst in franchise history. Cut their losses is what they did, as they elected to decline his $11 million option on October 31st, making him a free agent.
Return to the Rays and more
On February 2, 2021, Archer signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for $6.5 million, hoping to re-launch his career in the place where he had met his greatest success. It was another injury-filled season as he appeared in just 6 ganes, 5 of them starts, totalling 19 1/3 innings. When he was healthy enough to pitch, he wasn't bad, going 1-1, 4.66 with 21 strikeouts, but obviously it was far from his heyday. The problem this time was tightness in his right forearm, and he was unavailable once the postseason began.
After the expiration of his one-year deal, he remained a free agent for a long time until finding another team willing to give him a chance. That came on March 28, 2022 when the Minnesota Twins signed him to another one-year deal. They were optimistic that he was now healthy, as they cleared a spot on their 40-man roster, outrighting P Lewis Thorpe to AAA, to make room for him. The contrct was for $3.5 million, with an option for the next season worth $10 million if he were to bounce back to his previous level.
Archer is of mixed race, as his father was an African-American firefighter and his mother was white. Both were only teenagers when he was born and their relationship did not last, so he was adopted by his maternal grandmother and her husband and grew up in a mostly white environment thinking his mother was his older sister. While he stopped his formal studies after high school, he has never stopped learning and is an enthusiastic reader, seeing any book he takes up as an educational opportunity. He has been very active in the community, especially in working with children in foster homes, with whom he relates particularly well given his own background, and as a regular visitor in children's hospitals. He also regularly conducts clinics for "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities" (R.B.I.) which teaches baseball - and incidentally life skills - to children in underprivileged neighborhoods.
He was very active in the Rays' tour of Cuba during President Barack Obama's historic visit to the island in March of 2016. He wanted to have a chance to meet real Cubans, and managed to get in a game of catch with a youngster while the Rays were preparing to play an exhibition game against the Cuban national team. He explained that wherever he travels, he tries to find a pick-up baseball game or another opportunity to interact with the local population through baseball, as he is not into souvenirs.
Archer also has a lighter side and a well-developed sense of humor, as witnessed by his feud with Houston Astros mascot Orbit in 2017. He read an official "Declaration of Unfriendliness" that ratified a "state of discord" between the two parties and promised to engage in a campaign of pranks using water balloons, silly string, bubblegum and any other items abundantly found in major league clubhouses. A couple of days later, he presented Orbit with a Diploma signed by Rays mascot Raymond supposedly confirming Orbit's status as a junior mascot, something which did not go over well with the furry space alien, the diploma presentation dissolving into a full-on water balloon fight.
- 2-time AL All-Star (2015 & 2017)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (2015-2017)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2015-2017)
- Adam Berry: "Amid recovery, Archer becomes free agent: Pirates decline right-hander's $11 million option (source)", mlb.com, October 31, 2020. 
- Bill Chastain: "Archer inspired, humbled by visit to South Africa: Rays pitcher went on trip in December as a Major League Baseball ambassador", mlb.com, January 22, 2015. 
- Bill Chastain: "Archer aiming to help guide young Rays' development", mlb.com, January 29, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Rays ace Chris Archer moving past 19-loss 2016: 'I'm capable of so much more'", USA Today Sports, February 16, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Rays ace Chris Archer embraces it all: 'I couldn't ask for a better life'", USA Today Sports, February 25, 2016. 
- Do-Hyoung Park: "Twins sign Archer for needed rotation depth", mlb.com, March 28, 2022. 
- Mike Petriello: "Archer restores value with strong second half: Righty's 28.2 percent whiff rate over 2015-16 is fifth best among starters", mlb.com, November 9, 2016. 
- Jesse Sanchez: "Rays have day they'll 'never forget' in Cuba", mlb.com, March 22, 2016. 
- Mark Whicker: "Rays' Chris Archer emerges and goes on historic run", USA Today Sports, June 12, 2015.