As has become the custom during trading seasons, Chris Archer’s name is stirring the hot stove.
The reasons are obvious: Archer is a very good player on an extremely team friendly deal. The Tampa Bay Rays hold team options that could keep Archer playing for the Rays through 2021 at the cost of $27.5MM from 2019-21. Even better is only $9.25MM is guaranteed, should something happen in the near future.
And interestingly, at this stage of his career, there’s an exact comp for that contract.
Let history be your guide
Last summer we saw a very similar pitcher moved in the White Sox Jose Quintana. Quintana was controlled for three additional seasons at $29.35MM with $9.35MM guaranteed if the two team options were declined. The financial commitment is almost identical.
Jose Quintana was having his worst full season in the majors with a 4.49 ERA and 4.02 FIP in the first half over 104.1 innings. Chris Archer is suffering through his worst season with a 4.30 ERA, but continues to post a sparkling 3.51 FIP.
Both pitchers have good track records with durability being their most elite skill. Quintana was coming off four straight years with 200+ innings pitched and 32+ starts. Archer is coming off four straight years of 194.2+ IP with the last three being over 200. He also has made 32+ starts in all four seasons.
Archer landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career earlier this year but, fortunately, it wasn’t an arm injury.
Quintana ended up being dealt to the crosstown rival Chicago Cubs. The Cubs traded OF Eloy Jiminez (#8 BA 2017 Mid-Season Top 100), RHP Dylan Cease (#83 BA 2017 Mid-Season Top 100), 1B Matt Rose, and IF Bryant Flete.
The bulk of the value was in the first two names. A top-10 batter and back-end top-100 pitcher have a lot of value. That’s a good starting point for any potential discussions in an Archer trade.
A big problem for this seas, however, lies in that most of the top ten is currently held by teams not looking for present day wins.
Who could trade for Archer?
Of the teams with plausible dreams of making the playoffs this year there is OF Victor Robles (#6 BA, Washington Nationals, injured), RHP Forrest Whitley (#7 BA, Houston Astros), and OF Kyle Tucker (#8 BA Houston Astros) in the top-10.
There are very few teams that can pay this type of price without removing a major piece from their current MLB roster. At the trade deadline teams are much less willing to sacrifice MLB piece for MLB piece.
Two of the three top ten prospects are held by the Houston Astros. If there’s anybody that could use Archer the least, it would be the Astros.
The Washington Nationals have a right handed hitting outfielder Victor Robles. He’s spent most of the year with an injured elbow, but the fit is something you could envision the Rays thinking about as he would fill a major need.
Archer wouldn’t fill a pressing need for the Nationals, but they have fallen to below .500 and might need to do something major in order to make the playoffs in Bryce Harper’s walk year. With Stephen Strasburg hitting the disabled list this morning the uphill battle has only gotten steeper.
Sources: The Washington Nationals have started discussions with teams to gauge interest if they decide to sell. Of particular interest are Kelvin Herrera, Shawn Kelley and Ryan Madson, three free-agent-to-be relievers. Nats are telling teams they’ll know by end of weekend.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 26, 2018
If we expand this to the top-20 it only adds SS Brendan Rodgers (#14, Colorado Rockies), RHP Sixto Sanchez (#15, Philadelphia Phillies), RHP Mike Soraka (#17, Atlanta Braves, injured), and LHP Jesus Luzardo (#20, Oakland Athletics, injured).
The Phillies lead their division but do not have a clear need in their rotation, but the Rockies are 1.5 GB from the Wild Card and could plausibly upgrade their rotation from Antonio Senzatela and Chad Bettis through the addition of Archer, but there would likely be too steep a cost for them to get involved. Consider the Rox an unlikely darkhorse.
Is there no one else?
The San Diego Padres have expressed interest, which adds an interesting wrinkle.
The Padres have the pieces, because if they don’t no team in the majors would have to ability to pay in prospects. SS Fernando Tatis, Jr. (#2 BA), LHP MacKenzie Gore (#19 BA), and LHP Adrian Morejon (#23 BA) would be the top end prospects that could be in. Reports are they would be unwilling to move Tatis or Gore, but if the two sides were determined to make a deal there’s enough to get something done.
There might not be a team that is willing to pay the Rays price. Not everybody is going to agree on what Archer is as a pitcher. You’re going to have to have a pretty rosy outlook in order to get deep in trade talks.
The Rays are in a situation that it should take a very specific return that helps them in the very near term. Keeping Archer can do that, too. The Rays have major holes in corner outfield and catcher in the short term. It would likely take filling one of those holes with a great prospect while giving the Rays a pitcher that could be part of the top of the rotation with Blake Snell.
At some point the Rays are going to need to consolidate some of their talent to fill the holes that they aren’t able to fill from within. The front office has done a great job in building up the farm while putting a product on the field that isn’t an embarrassment. Now we transition from the young guys getting their feet wet into being able to be the core of a very good MLB team. The Rays are close. They need to be patient, but keeping Archer to help out the young guys is a fine plan.