Should the Seattle Mariners take the risk of signing Chris Archer this offseason? Well, there is one major red flag that should lead to an answer of no.
Chris Archer did not pitch at all last season due to offseason surgery in June. It was a major blow to Archer’s potential free-agent stock as he hit the open market for the first time in his career after his contract option was not picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Archer finished his Pirates career with a 4.92 ERA in 33 starts over two seasons, which was disappointing after the load that Pittsburgh gave up to get him. In 2018 the Pirates traded Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and prospect Shane Baz to acquire Archer, which has led to the trade being known as one of the worst trades in the MLB recently.
So why do the Seattle Mariners need to steer clear of Chris Archer?
Markelle Fultz is the reason why? Well, sort of.
There is one major red flag when it comes to Chris Archer and it has to do with his most recent surgery. Archer had surgery this offseason due to him suffering from a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome, which is when you have pain from nerves around your collarbone being compressed.
By all accounts the surgery was successful and Archer just recently posted a video of him pitching on Twitter, but this injury that he suffered has some notorious history for ruining careers, as athletes like Matt Harvey and Markelle Fultz have had the same injury.
Matt Harvey also had season-ending surgery in 2016 for thoracic outlet syndrome after having a similar jump in ERA to Archer. Since then Harvey has not been the same at all, as in 62 starts he has a 6.09 ERA since the surgery, and was cut by the Mets and then pitched for 3 different teams.
Markelle Fultz also suffered from TOC and it is credited as the reason for the former number 1 pick in the NBA Draft seemingly losing his jump shot and shooting stroke. Fultz has started to play again and has looked good, but he is nowhere close to what the Philadelphia 76ers thought they were getting when they drafted him out of the University of Washington.
Thoracic outlet syndrome also informally ended the career of Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, a longtime staple in the Cardinals rotation, who after having surgery for TOC would never pitch in the majors again.
What Archer’s agent must be stressing to teams, however, is that former Mariner Chris Young (who was just hired to be the Rangers GM) had surgery for TOC after similar jumps in ERA to Harvey and Archer, and then won 2014 MLB Comeback Player of the Year with the Seattle Mariners as he had a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts that year.
So the potential for Archer to return to his great days of being the top starter for the Tampa Bay Rays is there, but the careers that most have after the injury is extremely concerning. I wish Archer all the best as he is one of the more fun pitchers to watch in the MLB and has a huge personality, but unless the Mariners can sign him to a minor league deal I don’t think it is a great decision to bring him in.