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Chris Archer undergoes surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, won't return until 2021

Chris Archer undergoes surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, won't return until 2021

Pittsburgh Pirates starter Chris Archer won’t take the mound until 2021. Archer underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome Tuesday, the team announced. Archer is expected to return in 2021.

After emerging as one of the best young starters in baseball with the Tampa Bay Rays, the 31-year-old Archer has struggled with the Pirates. In two seasons with the team, Archer has a 4.92 ERA. Archer was limited to 119 2/3 innings last season due to shoulder issues. He dealt with neck tightness this spring.

While the thoracic outlet syndrome might explain some of Archer’s struggles with the Pirates, there’s no guarantee surgery will get him back to his previous form. The track record for pitchers who have surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome is spotty. New York Mets starter Matt Harvey was never the same following his procedure. Josh Beckett was able to turn in one solid season before retiring. Chris Carpenter was unable to return to the majors following his procedure in 2012.

Archer is set to make $9 million in 2020, though that figure will change based on the actual length of the baseball season. The league and the players association are still negotiating a number of issues surrounding the 2020 season, including its start date and number of games.

The surgery puts Archer in a tough spot for 2020. As long as he accrues service time in 2020 — something the players have fought for in negotiations — Archer will have an $11 million club option for 2021. The Pirates could determine that’s too much money to give a pitcher coming off such a difficult surgery.

Should the team decline that option, Archer would become a free agent. Given his recent struggles and the surgery, he would most likely be viewed as a buy-low option for teams. If he can prove he can still pitch effectively, that could open the door for Archer to get a bigger contract in 2022. If he struggles upon his return, Archer’s career could be in jeopardy.

That would be quite the depressing ending to one of the worst trades in Pirates history. The team traded away both Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow to acquire Archer. Meadows, 25, made the All-Star team last season. Glasnow, 26, posted a 1.87 ERA over 60 2/3 innings in 2020.

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