The Rays sent out a press release Wednesday morning to announce a baseball decision later in the day, but there is little need for that now. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Rays and starting pitcher Chris Archer have agreed to a six-year extension valued at $25 million that comes with a pair of club options.
The extension begins right now, in 2014, so it will replace the near -league-minimum Archer was set to make in his second big-league campaign. It also guarantees that the Rays have the ability to keep Archer around into his free agent years: that's been the key for Tampa Bay in the past, so it's no surprise to see them send Archer on the same path that James Shields and Matt Moore have walked before by buying out his arb years and attaching team-friendly options to his initial free agent seasons. According to Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan, those option seasons are worth around $20 million total -- below-average arms like Ricky Nolasco cost more than that these days.
The Rays are a small-market team with a small-market budget, and their whole talent model is built on the idea that they can develop and lock up talented young players like Archer, and then flip them when the time is right to reload the system, as they did with Shields in order to acquire Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi among others. David Price, who never signed an extension with the team, will likely be the next to go: avoiding additional Price situations in the future should be high up on the Rays' to-do list, and Archer's shiny new deal plays into that idea.
That's not to say Archer is Price, or that he'll become Price, but he's still a talented arm who will help the Rays. In his 158 big-league innings, Archer has a 110 ERA+, and along with Moore and Alex Cobb, will anchor the Rays' rotation in a post-Price world, as Shields, Price, and the man Archer was traded for, Matt Garza, used to. It is very likely the Rays will save considerable money with this extension, as $25 million over six years is far below what Archer could make in arbitration should he become a legitimate number two starter in the majors, and what the price for even a year of free agent pitching will be by the time the first option year rolls around. On Archer's side, though, it makes all kinds of sense to sign for $25 million guaranteed right now when it's presented: he earned just over $500,000 last year, and as this spring reminded us, pitcher injuries can basically happen at anytime to anyone, and even Tommy John surgery isn't a guaranteed fix.
Of the three anchors mentioned above, Alex Cobb is the only one without an extension at this point. If he's willing to sign to the kind of deal the Rays love to hand out, though, it likely won't be long until he's locked up alongside Moore and Archer.