This is the third in our Dodger trade deadline targets series. This time, we’re looking at Chris Archer, which is terribly complicated.
Now, let me say this right up front: I’m well aware of the Rays’ situation. They’re currently one game ahead of the Yankees for the first American League wild spot. I understand that if the season ended today, they’d host a playoff game. I get it. And I’m going to admit that Archer probably won’t be available before July 31.
But what if he is?
OK, I’m also not going to go terribly in-depth on him. Let’s just throw a few highlights out there:
- 3.16 FIP
- 3.2 fWAR
- 28.5 K%
- 21.2 K-BB%
- 13.2 SwStr%
- 6.5 IP/GS
- 3rd-best slider in baseball
- Elite velocity (95.5 MPH)
The résumé is impressive and any team would be lucky to have him. The Rays are that team — for now.
Mainly, I’m writing this because I said last month that I would. Before I get to the proposal, let me make a last-ditch effort to explain my thinking.
The worst place to be in sports is in the middle. It’s nice to be competitive, but if the ultimate goal is a championship, it’s hard to get there when you’re constantly in the middle of the pack. The Astros and Cubs rebuilt the right way. The Phillies are in the process of doing that. I’m not saying the Rays need a full rebuild, but if they trade Archer, they could trade off some of their other close-to-free-agency assets and have young players ready to step in as replacements (with more reinforcements on the way).
Despite being a playoff contender, do you really see the Rays going through the American League to the World Series? Yeah, the Giants did it 2014 because they rode the incredible left arm of Madison Bumgarner. While Archer has that kind of potential, those performances are generational (hi Orel Hershiser, 1988). It’s true that the Rays are on their way back up after being one of the better teams in the American League for a 6-year stretch (2008-13, with Andrew Friedman at the helm). After three losing seasons, the Rays are righting the ship. But with the Astros looking like a powerhouse, the Clevelands not going anywhere and the big-time money of the Yankees and Red Sox, it might be tough for the Rays to get through the junior circuit. Would they be better off moving Archer for a haul to truly be competitive in a few years or ride it out with him and his incredibly team-friendly contract? That’s the big question.
It isn’t like a playoff run is going to increase revenue that much for the franchise. They have finished last or second-to-last in attendance in the American League since 2011. In 2008 — the year they made it to the World Series — they averaged 22,370 fans per game — second-lowest in the AL. Even if they advanced in the postseason, they’d be hard-pressed to make a deep run and, in turn, make more money for the franchise. And they’d net significantly more money overall by trading the remainder of Archer’s nearly $30 million than what they’d make increased attendance for one, two, three or more games.
The Rays don’t need to go into a full rebuild, but they’re not strangers to trading big-time starting pitchers before their contracts are up and/or their value diminishes. In recent years, they’ve traded Matt Moore, David Price and James Shields for substantial packages. Archer is not as good as Price was when he was dealt, but his contract situation is superior (signed through 2021 if the below-market options are exercised). He’s also better and has a better contract than Moore and Shields. So, the return to get him would have to be substantial.
It’s not the strongest argument that they’d deal him, but if there’s any team that’s going to cash in on a player’s value at its peak (or near-peak), it’s the Rays.
The Dodgers and Rays are also no strangers when it comes to trades. Friedman’s first trade after being hired by the Dodgers was to acquire Joel Peralta and Adam Liberatore for Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris. They also swung the Logan Forsythe-for-Jose De Leon deal in January.
The usual suspects are sure to be on the table here, but this deal will look different than the previous two because the number of quality players/prospects going to Tampa Bay is going to be plentiful.
Yes, it’s a lot. But to get a guy of Archer’s caliber, it’s going to take something like this. The Rays are getting three of the Dodgers’ Top 5 prospects (from my latest rankings), a big-money signing in Diaz who is improving and an MLB-ready pitcher in Oaks. He’s on the disabled list right now with an oblique injury, but he can slot into a rotation or bullpen as soon as he’s healthy. Calhoun and Verdugo could be in the Rays’ lineup tomorrow, if need be. I know the Rays like Alvarez, so he might have a bit more value to them than other teams.
I fully realize this probably won’t happen. I also fully realize they may demand Walker Buehler be included, but I think the Dodgers like him more than Verdugo, hence his inclusion instead. No matter how unlikely, if the Dodgers were able to land Archer for the rotation, it’d sure make me feel a lot better about the postseason and the number of prospects they’d be trading. And despite that, the system still wouldn’t be gutted. It may not be Top 5 anymore, but there are still a bunch of quality players left.