Twins sign Archer for needed rotation depth

March 29th, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even after a flurry of moves this spring, the Twins still needed another starting pitcher to solidify their rotation picture. They addressed that on Monday, when the Twins agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with free-agent right-hander Chris Archer, with a $10 million mutual option for 2023.

The club has not confirmed the terms of the deal.

The $3.5 million guarantee encompasses a base salary of $2.75 million for the '22 season and a $750,000 buyout in '23 if the Twins choose not to exercise their end of the mutual option. Archer can also earn up to $6 million in performance bonuses this year.

"I think the opportunity the Twins had for me and the team -- the competitive team -- that they have and my familiarity with [manager Rocco Baldelli] outweighs the monetary element," Archer said Tuesday.

Archer joins a rotation mix that features Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Archer had been working independently while unsigned and threw 50 pitches in his most recent bullpen session. He had been sharing both video and analytical data with the Twins in the weeks leading up to the signing, and Archer's relative readiness to contribute to the club played a factor in the Twins' discussions.

Considering the Twins' starters in camp have also ramped up to around that level at this point in spring, Archer appears poised to jump into the Minnesota rotation. They didn't specify an exact date for his first start, but Baldelli noted it would come "relatively soon."

"Being able to track his pitches and get the velos and TrackMan, see his video, and know where he’s at in his progression was a big part of this one," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "As we near Opening Day, it was important that we consider readiness if we were going to add a free agent, and Chris comes in tracking pretty closely with our starters in terms of volume."

Archer said he spent the majority of the offseason working out in Florida but moved his sessions to Arizona in the last two weeks so that he could throw to the group of then-unsigned free agents who remained there, including Michael Conforto, Ryon Healy, Kevin Pillar and a handful of independent and Minor League players.

The Twins had added Carlos Correa (free agent), Gray (trade), Joe Smith (free agent), Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela (trade) to their Major League group coming out of the lockout, but they continued to look to add to a rotation in which the only sure components entering the offseason were Ryan and Ober, who have a combined 25 games of MLB experience between them.

Various reports had connected the Twins to the A's, who have reportedly been shopping front-line starters Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, but MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday that teams were getting the impression that Oakland could hold onto both starters into the regular season.

"I think we certainly were continuing to pursue that," Falvey said. "I think as you get closer and closer to Opening Day, it’s really about the other teams, as well."

The 33-year-old Archer pitched to a 4.66 ERA in six appearances (five starts) with the Rays last season, another campaign marred by injury issues for the two-time All-Star who was once a frontline starter during a seven-year stint with Tampa Bay to begin his career.

After missing the entire 2020 season following surgery to address neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome and a hip labrum procedure, Archer made two appearances with the Rays in April before he was sidelined until August with lateral forearm tightness and experienced continued setbacks due to hip tightness that eventually sent him back to the IL in September.

Both Falvey and Baldelli said they believed Archer to be in his healthiest physical condition in several years, with the potential for upside if indeed healthy.

"I got with one of the better [physical therapists] in the world, and she got me right," Archer said. "She was formerly in baseball, so she knows the demands of a baseball player, what type of conditioning I needed for my hips specifically. I've had no issues with that for months now."

With No. 7 prospect Josh Winder and non-roster invitee Chi Chi González the most likely candidates for that fifth spot in camp, Archer's arrival gives the Twins a veteran to potentially fill that opening in the rotation while Winder and other starting prospects like Jordan Balazovic, Drew Strotman, Cole Sands and Simeon Woods Richardson continue their maturation in the Minors ahead of possible callups later this season.