DURHAM — The path to the majors hasn’t been easy for Clayton’s Chris Archer. After being a part of two trades that eventually landed him with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, the former fifth-round pick’s shot at a rotation spot got a little less complicated with a trade late Sunday night.
The Rays traded major league starters James Shields and Wade Davis along with other prospects to the Kansas City Royals for their top prospect, slugging outfielder Wil Myers, and other top prospects.
Archer, the Rays’ No. 2 prospect who made his major league debut last season, woke up at 5 a.m. Monday morning to texts from his friends asking him what it all meant for him.
“Personally, I thought that we traded away two of our starters and maybe I do move up the depth chart,” Archer said. “But it didn’t change my mentality of this offseason at all. I can’t really selfishly say that it changed my outlook because we still have seven quality arms and I’m going to have to work.”
Archer, 24, spent most of last season with Durham and was called up twice to Tampa Bay. He was 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA. He made two starts in September, beating Boston for his first career victory as the Rays tried to stay in the playoff race. During both opportunities, Archer said Shields took him under his wing.
“All I kept thinking about was how thankful I was to play under a guy like James Shields,” Archer said. “He’s a class act and went out of his way to make me comfortable. Before my first start, he took me out to lunch and made me feel super comfortable.
“He’s the true definition of a leader … I’m going to miss that.”
When making the trade, Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ Executive Vice President of baseball operations, admitted that having quality starts from Archer last season made the decision easier.
“We like Arch a lot,” Friedman said. “He’s always possessed high-end stuff and we really saw him turn the corner when he made those spot starts for us last year. The pitching depth we had made the decision a lot easier for us to go through with the trade.
“How we set things up for this season remains to be seen. All I can say is we will do whatever helps our roster and helps develop our players. We feel very strongly that he is going to be a great starting pitcher.”
Along with Myers, a High Point native, the trade also brings in two pitching prospects in right-hander Jake Odorizzi (No. 5 in the organization) and left-hander Mike Montgomery.
Archer says the Rays’ pitching depth is a blessing. Prospect rankings give fans something to discuss, but they won’t impact Archer’s quest to make the team in spring training.
“I don’t really read too much into those rankings,” Archer said. “Before 2010, I wasn’t even on their radar. By 2012, I was starting in the majors. So really, how much should I look into those? If we all pan out, this team will continue to prosper, so I’m happy.”
Though Archer did admit he feels he has a better shot at making it to the majors this season, he said comfortable isn’t exactly the way he would describe his feelings going into the offseason.
“I never like to use the word comfortable,” Archer said. “Right when you say you’re comfortable is when you slip. I’m always striving to get better, and this trade won’t change that. But hey, if it is my time, I’m definitely going to make the most of it.”
Follow on Twitter: @RCorySmith