ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Chris Archer has done all right for a guy who was cut from his seventh grade team and once told by a coach he would never be good enough to pitch in college, let alone the major leagues.
The 25-year-old right-hander not only has a promising future with the Tampa Bay Rays, he will be paid well while trying to reach his potential.
"Not making teams, being told I was never going to play college baseball, getting traded twice, and now I'm sitting here in this seat where not many people ever get," Archer said Wednesday after finalizing a $25.5 million, six-year contract, the latest long-term deal the Rays have given to one of their young pitchers.
"Having the ability to make my parents debt-free is huge for me right now. And just the willingness from the Rays to offer such a contract for somebody with under a year of service time is remarkable," Archer added. "It was definitely something I couldn't say no to. It was a smooth, easy process."
The contract includes club options for 2020 and 2021 that could raise the value to $43.75 million.
Archer went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts as a rookie in 2013. He's scheduled to make his first start of the season Thursday against Toronto.
"It's a contract, and its guaranteed money, but I think it's just the beginning of six or eight great years," Archer said.
Tampa Bay has one of the deepest pitching rotations in baseball, as well as a history of signing its best young players to long-term contract early in their careers. Left-hander Matt Moore, a 17-game winner a year ago, signed a $14 million, five-year deal after making just one regular-season start in the majors.
Archer gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $500,000 this year, $1 million in 2015, $2.75 million in 2016, $4.75 million in 2017, $6.25 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019. The Rays have a $9 million option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout, and if that option is exercised they have an $11 million option for 2021 with a $250,000 buyout.
Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Archer has the talent to "develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter," as well as the work ethic and character off the field to ensure the Rays are making a good investment.
"It's not only important to identify the talent of the player, but also who they are," Friedman said. "As much as we're betting on his talent, we're betting on who he is, as well."
Archer was obtained from the Cubs as part of an eight-player trade that sent Matt Garza to Chicago in 2011. The new deal replaces a one-year contract agreed to in February that called for Archer to make $511,200 in the major leagues and $214,222 in the minors.
The native of Clayton, N.C., was promoted from Triple-A Durham last June 1 and went on to lead AL rookies making a minimum of 20 starts in ERA, opponents' batting average (.226), complete games (two), shutouts (two). He finished third in balloting for AL Rookie of the Year behind Rays outfielder Wil Myers and Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Talks on the new deal began during spring training. Archer said he consulted with a number of people during the process, including some players who've signed long-term deals early in their career and some who turned it down.
"What came from it is never turn your back on your first fortune," said Archer, adding that he feels blessed to be in a position to make sure his parents become debt-free. "At the end of the contract, there's still room to sign another deal or extension or whatever it might be. From where I come from, this is more than I can ever ask for, to be honest."
Archer thanked the Rays for trading for him after other organizations gave up on developing him. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2006 and traded to the Cubs in December 2008.
"It seems like this was the first team that I've ever really played for that really believed in me and was willing to wait an extra year or two for me to really turn into what I could possibly be," Archer said.