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Pirates’ Chris Archer out until 2021 after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery

This news seemingly puts Archer’s future in major doubt.

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Toronto Blue Jays Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s a 2020 season, Chris Archer won’t be a part of it. The Pirates announced that the right-hander underwent surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome on Tuesday and is out until 2020.

The 31-year-old Archer, a two-time All-Star, has struggled in a major way since being dealt to the Pirates in a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline in 2018. Over 33 starts in black and yellow, Archer has a 4.92 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. He missed time early last season with right thumb inflammation and didn’t pitch after August 20 due to right shoulder inflammation — an issue that we can now assume was brought on by thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Pirates can decline Archer’s $11 million for next season and pay him a $250,000 buyout instead, and considering that he’ll be coming off this injury and that the Pirates — already an organization with a reputation for penny-pinching before the coronavirus pandemic — will be dealing with severely reduced revenues due to the partial or total lack of baseball in 2020, it seems like a near-sure thing that the option won’t be picked up. That will send Archer to free agency, and with teams across the league likely to be more cautious with their spending, there probably won’t be much of a market for a 32-year-old starter who has struggled in recent years and is coming off major surgery.

Archer will try to become one of the rare major-league pitchers to make a successful comeback from thoracic outlet surgery. Jaime Garcia, Mike Foltynewicz and Chris Young have had bursts of success upon their return from the relatively new procedure; other notable pitchers who have struggled to regain their previous success or have yet to return include Matt Harvey, Phil Hughes, Clayton Richard, Tyson Ross, Luke Hochevar, and Nate Karns.