The Milwaukee Brewers are going for it in 2018 as they’ve already spent big with their farm system to acquire Chistian Yelich from the Miami Marlins, and then soon after signed Lorenzo Cain to the most expensive deal of the offseason.
Now, they have their eyes set on adding a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to help fully establish themselves as major players in the NL Central, and Chris Archer seems to be their primary target.
Archer’s name has been abundant in trade rumors and speculation this offseason; however, Archer has had recent communication with the Rays General Manager, Eric Neander, that makes Archer confident he will remain with Tampa Bay due to a deal being extremely unlikely.
In other words, Archer might hold decent trade value, but the Rays aren’t looking to move Archer, and would therefore have to be wow’d to move him.
Regardless, the Brewers, as well as several other teams, will still come calling trying to work out a deal for the Rays ace.
Sources: #Brewers, casting wide net for SP, have had recent contact with #Rays on Archer. Deal would appear unlikely. TB might not view Santana or Phillips as enough of a centerpiece for a controllable ace. MIL might not want to cut deeper into its farm system after Yelich trade.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 1, 2018
Archer will be 29 for most of the 2018 campaign and is still under contract through the 2021 season. He will make $6.4M during 2018 and his yearly amount will increase each year, maxing out at $11M in 2021 as part of a team option.
2017 was his sixth year in the majors and Archer finished with a 4.07 ERA / 3.40 FIP, striking out opposing hitters at the highest clip of his career (29.2%), while registering 201 innings pitched over 34 starts.
The Rays have little motivation to move an ace on such an affordable deal, and the Brewers would have a tall order trying to offer anything of significance to acquire Archer.
Milwaukee may be looking to move Domingo Santana, who surprised everyone with a 3-win season last year, but the outfielder likely loses value from his defense (career -20 DRS in less than two seasons of work) and would need to DH for the Rays, a team that already has a glut of left fielders and the second most valuable DH in baseball on the roster.
The Rays might find more use in Travis Shaw, who also surprised last season with 30+ home runs at a corner infield position, but there’s little reason to believe the Trop will play anything like Milwaukee’s ballpark (or that Milwaukee can spare him), and neither of these major league players has a track record of success to give the Rays confidence in the acquisition — which brings us back to the farm.
Archer has a similar trade value to Milwaukee’s acquired Christian Yelich (something north of $100 million in surplus trade value), but now the franchise is without any prospects left in the Top-50 rankings, and outfielder Brett Phillips is a high variance, 45-grade prospect. Baseball America ranks him in their Top-100, while FanGraphs has him outside the org’s top ten.
To put Phillips in better context, try this comparison:
Outfield Prospect Comparison
One of these players is already on the Rays 25-man roster, and the other is Brett Phillips.
If you consider the role to be played by this type of player, you are likely looking for someone to come off the bench as a short term solution before the Rays’ front line prospects (Jake Bauers, Jesus Sanchez, and Justin Williams) come into the fold.
Which profile better suits the Rays?
Player A is Brett Phillips, who FanGraphs describes as “an above-average runner and high-effort player who makes it work in center field despite lacking great instincts.” His bat graded slightly above average last year, but with a 30+% strikeout rate.
Player B is Mallex Smith, who already has a track record of success on the Rays roster with 16 steals in 81 games, and proven defense as a replacement center fielder (8 DRS in 86 games). His bat graded slightly below average, but offers a high rate of stolen bases.
In short, it’s unclear that the Brewers have anything to entice the Rays beyond second base prospect Keston Hiura, who ranked 56th on MLB.com’s Top-100 after being drafted 9th overall in 2017, and a couple Double-A pitchers who have just as variable ratings as Phillips. What remains in the Brewers system simply lacks consensus.
These rumors keep surfacing, but it’s difficult to see anything that would blow the Rays away. If the Brewers would like to discuss Jake Odorizzi and Brad Miller, two players who would still meet Milwaukee’s needs, I bet the Rays are listening a little more intently.