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Pirates exercise options on Marte, Archer

@adamdberry
November 4, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates picked up their club options for Starling Marte and Chris Archer. Pittsburgh is still without a full-time general manager following the dismissal of Neal Huntington, but interim GM Kevan Graves made the anticipated decision on both veterans before Monday’s deadline. Even with Huntington gone,

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates picked up their club options for Starling Marte and Chris Archer.

Pittsburgh is still without a full-time general manager following the dismissal of Neal Huntington, but interim GM Kevan Graves made the anticipated decision on both veterans before Monday’s deadline.

Even with Huntington gone, it’s not a surprise that the Pirates exercised their options on Marte and Archer. Marte, 31, is still a valuable center fielder coming off his second straight season with at least 20 homers and 20 steals. Archer, 31, has been a disappointment since the Pirates acquired him at the 2018 Trade Deadline, but his '20 salary is still reasonable for a bounce-back candidate with his track record.

The more interesting question is what comes next. Will the Pirates’ next GM decide to rebuild and dangle intriguing and well-paid veterans like Marte and Archer on the trade market? Will the Bucs attempt to build around a player like Marte and bank on Archer rebounding?

Marte, who made $10 million in the final guaranteed season of his contract, will earn $11.5 million next year. The contract extension he signed in March 2014 also includes a $12.5 million club option (or $1 million buyout) for the '21 season.

In 2019, Marte slashed .295/.342/.503 with a career-high 23 homers, 82 RBIs and 25 stolen bases despite being limited to 132 games. Marte missed 10 days following an outfield collision with infielder Erik González, and his season ended early due to a sprained left wrist. He tied for the Pirates’ third-most valuable player last season, according to Baseball-Reference, with 2.9 Wins Above Replacement.

“Starling is an All-Star-caliber center fielder who impacts the game in all phases,” Graves said in a statement. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring him back in 2020 following his excellent 2019 season.”

Archer, who made $7.5 million in the final guaranteed season of his contract, will earn $9 million next year. The contract extension he signed with the Rays in April 2014 also includes an $11 million club option (or $250,000 buyout) for the '21 season.

Archer finished the season injured with a 3-9 record, 5.19 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 119 2/3 innings over 23 starts. He did show some encouraging signs over his final nine starts, recording 63 strikeouts with 17 walks in 46 innings, after revamping his pitch mix to focus on his strengths.

“We are encouraged about the progression Chris made in the second half of last season and look forward to him being a part of our rotation in 2020,” Graves said.

It might be easy to say the Pirates exercised Archer's option to justify the trade -- they gave up Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz for him, in case anyone has somehow forgotten -- but it’s more about their assessment of Archer’s value.

If Archer returns to his 2013-15 peak, his $9 million salary would be a bargain. If he even manages to recapture his '17 form, becoming a 200-inning starter with a roughly league-average ERA, his $9 million salary next year is a better investment than a $1.75 million buyout. The Pirates might have to spend that or more to get a comparable reclamation project in free agency, anyway.

Matt Harvey, for instance, signed a one-year deal worth $11 million with the Angels last offseason despite producing a 4.94 ERA the previous season with the Mets and Reds; he had a 7.09 ERA in 12 starts in 2019. The Angels also signed injury-prone swingman Trevor Cahill to a one-year, $9 million deal last offseason; he went on to make 37 appearances (11 starts) with a 5.98 ERA.

Roster moves

Facing a deadline to activate players from their highly populated 60-day injured list, the Pirates further shuffled their roster on Monday evening.

The club reinstated the following eight players from the 60-day IL: Archer, reliever Nick Burdi, reliever Kyle Crick, right-hander Chad Kuhl, reliever Edgar Santana, starter Jameson Taillon and outfielders Jason Martin and Gregory Polanco.

They had five open spots on their 40-man roster entering Monday and cleared four more as they outrighted right-handers James Marvel, Alex McRae and Yefry Ramírez and lefty Wei-Chung Wang off the roster.

Monday’s moves left the Pirates with one open spot on the 40-man roster, and either Graves or the next GM will have to create additional space to make room for the handful of prospects who need to be protected prior to next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.