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Kevin Gorman: Evaluate Chris Archer's impact on Pirates after 3 years, not 3 weeks

Kevin Gorman
| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, 8:00 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 15: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the interleague game on August 15, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 15: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the interleague game on August 15, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Chris Archer can’t help but pay attention to Tyler Glasnow and the Tampa Bay Rays, and not just because Glasnow is the centerpiece of the package involved in Archer’s trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Archer still follows his former team, so he’s as aware as anyone of how Glasnow performed in his first four starts with the Rays — which is to say better than Archer did in his first three with the Pirates.

Where Glasnow has allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits, with 24 strikeouts and six walks in 18 2 3 innings for Tampa, Archer has allowed 11 runs (nine earned) on 18 hits, with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 14 1 3 innings for the Pirates.

“To me, there’s no reason to compare,” said Archer, who will make his fourth start for the Pirates on Monday night against the Atlanta Braves.

“He’s very early in his career, and his ceiling is as high as anybody’s. I’ve already established myself. It’s hard to compare somebody who’s in their rookie season to somebody who’s in their sixth or seventh season.”

Complicating matters is that the Pirates are 7-10 since acquiring Archer and reliever Keone Kela before the nonwaiver trade deadline, and that’s thanks to Adam Frazier’s solo shot in the 11th inning for a 2-1 walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

For Pirates fans who are worrying about buyer’s remorse, especially after 2017 first-rounder Shane Baz was identified last week as the player to be named, consider why the Pirates made this trade in the first place: They chose a proven starting pitcher over a potential ace.

That should be applauded, even if the deal also included promising outfielder Austin Meadows and Archer hasn’t pitched more than five innings in his three starts.

“Haven’t gone deep,” Archer said. “That’s probably been the most frustrating part.”

But this is a trade that should be evaluated after three years, not three weeks.

Archer’s ERA (5.65) is another frustration and enough of an early concern that Pirates general manager Neal Huntington discussed — without provocation — advanced analytics like ERA proxies.

Huntington, however, also pointed to Archer ranking among the game’s top five pitchers in strikeouts (249 in 2017 and 233 in ’16) the past two seasons, noting that they were his “down years.”

“But this is not about these 10 starts that Chris will make for us this year,” Huntington said. “This is about the three-plus years that Chris will make us better, will give us a legitimate top-of-the-rotation type starter.”

The Pirates ran out of patience waiting for Glasnow to become a starter, let alone an ace. The 24-year-old has nasty stuff and posted unbelievable statistics in the minors but bombed as a starter last season and had his struggles in long relief this season.

The Rays got a glimpse of both sides of Glasnow on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox: He had a 28-pitch, four-run first inning, allowing two doubles, two walks and two steals but recovered to retire the final 12 batters and 17 of the last 18 in a career-high 6 2 3 innings.

Archer has left all three Pirates starts with the lead and has a track record of being a workhouse who pitched 201 innings each of the past two seasons. That’s why the Pirates’ young starters applauded the trade. They know they can learn a lot from Archer, a two-time All-Star who pitches with swagger and has lived up to a reputation as a natural leader.

The Pirates are trusting Archer can be that and more for them, something we never could say that with any guarantee about Glasnow.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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