Coming into the offseason, the market for pitching was relatively weak; Rich Hill was the best starter available in free agency, though several big names, such as Chris Sale and Chris Archer, seemed to be available on the trade market.
With Hill signed with the Dodgers and Sale having been traded from the White Sox to the Red Sox, the Rays ace Chris Archer appears to be the best pitcher still available, and one that offers two more years of control, leading to an even higher value.
If the Rays do look to the market and field offers for Archer, what kind of precedent does Sale’s trade set for possible returns?
Chicago got a haul
No matter which way you lean on who gained more in the all-Sox trade, one thing is clear: the White Sox came away with a fantastic group of prospects. The centerpiece of the deal was Yoan Moncada, a consensus top-five prospect in the majors and ranked number one by many. Though his brief stop in the majors in 2016 showed he may not be ready for the show just yet, he seems destined to be a star after dominating every level of minor-league competition he has faced.
Additionally, they picked up pitcher Michael Kopech, a top-five prospect in the Red Sox organization who, though he has missed some time in the minors due to injury or suspension, frequently touches triple digits with his fastball and also ranks in the top-100 lists. Finally, two more lower-ranked prospects, top-ten organizational guy Luis Basabe and top-thirty Victor Diaz, were included as well.
For a pitcher the quality of Archer to be moved, it looks like it’s going to take a lot of young talent and luckily for the Rays, two of their biggest potential suitors in the Astros and Braves are loaded with it.
Any deal for the Rays’ ace, to offer the equivalent of a top prospect in the game, would have to begin with Houston’s Alex Bregman or Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson. Both are former college stars and top-ten prospects in the league who had successful stints in the big-leagues in 2016, proving they are ready to contribute right away.
Both of them being infielders, however, complicates things as the Rays have guys such as Evan Longoria, Matt Duffy, and Logan Forsythe playing in their potential spots. Add in top Rays’ prospect Willy Adames being a shortstop and the Rays would have a logjam on their hands. With the talent possessed by the likes of Bregman and Swanson, however, that sort of problem would be welcomed by just about any front office.
The next item on the list of demands could be a young pitcher, be it Braves’ lefty Sean Newcomb or one of Houston’s right-handed duo of Francis Martes and Joe Musgrove. All three of them are top 50 prospects who have had success at varying levels of the minors and would bolster the Rays system significantly.
The Rays would likely command some other prospects to complete the deal as the White Sox did, but the heart of any trade would likely be a top-tier prospect and one or two other highly-rated guys.
Previously thought of as potential untouchables and franchise players, the shipment of Moncada puts the spotlight on Bregman and Swanson if their teams want to make a significant splash.