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Chris Archer: A Retrospective of a Rays Great

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A look back at the memorable Rays career that was Chris Archer’s

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In January of 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays were undergoing a massive change to their roster and changing the landscape of the franchise. They had just won the American League East and had been in the playoffs in two of the past three years, but with several notable players becoming free agents and even more having their cost rise substantially, the Rays were in the midst of a roster overhaul.

So, on January 8th, 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays shook the baseball world as they traded RHP Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a massive haul of prospects, including the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year in 2010, a 22 year old pitcher by the name of Chris Archer.

Prior to the trade, Archer had been named the top overall prospect in the Cubs system by Baseball America and 27th overall.

Archer has the best fastball and slider in the system. He operates from 92-95 mph and touches 97, and though he has an over-the top delivery, his fastball has some run and sink to it. His slider sits in the mid-80s and peaks at 91 mph, giving him two plus-plus pitches when his command is at its best. His changeup has improved markedly since the trade, and while he throws it a bit hard at times, it should give him an effective third pitch.

Archer ended up slotted as the fourth-best prospect in a very good Rays system following the trade. Following the conclusion of spring training, he was assigned to Double-A Montgomery, where he would spend the majority of the 2011 season. Command issues plagued him throughout the year, nonetheless, he was still among the top prospects in the game, remaining among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects (89th overall) heading into the 2012 season.

After pitching in two games in Triple-A during the 2011 season, the Rays assigned Archer to Triple-A to kick off the 2012 campaign. Archer made 14 starts for the Durham Bulls, then on June 12th, the Tampa Bay Rays promoted him to the majors to make his big league debut against the Washington Nationals.

Archer showcased everything that made him among the top pitching prospects in baseball, as he demonstrated a wipeout slider and paired it with a well-located fastball. Overall, he racked up seven strikeouts over six innings pitched, while walking one. He allowed three runs on three hits over the course of the night.

Archer made one more start during his brief promotion, and then was sent back down to Durham until rosters expanded in September. He made four more appearances for the Rays down the stretch, as the team fell just short of making the playoffs.

The season as a whole (2012) had been a massive success for Archer, as he re-established himself as one of the most promising young arms in the game.

Archer began the 2013 season in Durham again, but on June 1st, the Tampa Bay Rays called upon him and permanently place him in their starting rotation.

Fans quickly recognized that Archer would be unparalleled source of energy on the mound, as he became animated almost instantly over every possible outcome. One of those displays caught the attention of plenty around the game, when Archer kissed his bicep after a tense situation ended in a strikeout.

Archer’s energetic style on the mound never subsided during his Rays’ tenure. Meanwhile, Archer carved through opposing lineups during his rookie season, displaying the best command of his professional career. The Rays made the playoffs but suffered a quick exit. Nonetheless, Archer was voted third in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting. His teammate, Wil Myers, won the award.

Entering the 2014 season, Archer was rewarded for his efforts with a contract extension that put Archer under team control for eight more seasons, lasting through the 2021 campaign.

After being rewarded with the contract extension, Archer rewarded the Rays with a fantastic 2014 season, and he then followed that up with a career year in 2015, being selected to his first All-Star game and finishing fifth in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

He finished the 2015 season with a record of 12-13, registering a 3.23 ERA and an even lower FIP (2.90). Overall, he had a 29.0 percent strikeout rate and 7.6 percent walk rate in 212.0 innings pitched over 34 starts — dominance.

Archer’s surface-level numbers never matched his ace-level reputation over the next few years, as opponents started getting better results on batted fly balls. They found that if you put them in the outfield seats, it works out much better, and Archer’s numbers suffered for it, his numbers ballooning. They were still respectable, but they were not the numbers of an ace.

Still, Archer took the mound every fifth day for the Rays and, more often than not, delivered seven innings of quality work, keeping the game within reach for the Rays offense to try and muster out a victory.

This season with the Rays has been Archer’s worst in the majors. During this year, Archer endured his first trip to the disabled list (due to an abdominal strain). While on the field, he hasn’t produced the results that we’ve grown to expect from him as he has a 4.31 ERA. However, it could just be a case of bad luck, an unlucky trio of years for Archer, as he has always posted a solid FIP, with his career mark currently registering 3.48.

Archer’s time with Tampa Bay has come to an end, some will have seen him as a pitcher who had amazing potential but could never realize it, others will have seen him as a constant source of energy on the mound who, on any given night, could dominate an opposing lineup, leaving an indelible mark on the Rays fan base and team culture.

His last start in a Rays uniform came on July 27th in Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. Archer delivered a prototypical Archer start, giving up three runs on four hits — including a home run. His strikeout total wasn’t what we’re accustomed to, as he only tallied three on the night, but it was an off night for the former ace, an unfortunate ending for a resounding career in a Rays uniform.

Chris Archer will missed; in the locker room, on the field, addressing the media, and perhaps most of all, off the field, as Archer served as an ambassador for the Rays in every city they went to. He took part in numerous charitable endeavors around Tampa Bay and in the cities around the league.

Truly, Archer is a shining example for all those who play the game.