Will Milwaukee Pull Trigger On Archer Deal?
Will the Tampa Bay Rays be bold this trade deadline and trade Chris Archer? Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times believes so. He suggest’s that the Rays should go full steam ahead with the youth movement transition, noting that Archer’s contract will be nearing its end when the next window of competitive baseball opens in Tampa Bay.
Topkin asks, “Should they [Rays] take advantage of their perennially team-friendly contract terms to keep him around (just $27.5 million total for the next three seasons), to provide the innings that he does and share the experiences that he has had and be the leader that he thinks he can be?” His answer is simple, he says, “probably not.”
Some may argue that Chris Archer’s value is too low for the Rays to extract the value they would need to deal him. In 16 starts this year he’s 3-4 with a 4.40 ERA. While he hasn’t lost any zip on his fastball, which averages 94.6 mph, his strikeout rate has fallen to 25.6-percent. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2014 (21.1%).
Overall, the Archer is under perfoming drum beat is probably being banged a lot louder than it should. While Archer shouldn’t be mentioned in the same class as Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, or Justin Verlander, he holds up well against most other pitchers. He has his knocks and dents (i.e. doesn’t work deep into games) as most pitchers do.
Teams may view Archer as a pitcher that has plateaued, for whatever reason, with the Rays organization. Just last season, Gerrit Cole was struggling with the Pittsburgh Pirates but the overall talent was there, Houston found and unlocked it. Charlie Morton, another former Pirate, also found success leaving the organization. This isn’t a knock on the Pirates organization as much as to point out that some pitchers don’t align well with the overall objectives of the organization. Could that be an issue with Archer? Could be.
Point is, Archer is still an impact trade chip that the Rays are holding, and it won’t be easy to pry him away. One thing working in the Rays favor right now is that the market conditions are very favorable for the Rays, almost ideal. Archer is one of the few high end pitchers on the market with years of control (3-years) at a reasonable price ($27.5MM). He has the age factor on his side as he doesn’t turn 30 until late September.
The Rays will want to extract a haul, not only for the value of Archer on the mound, but also the years of team friendly control that a team will be acquiring. To find a team that would be willing to meet the Rays high asking price, rather than turn to a rental on the market, isn’t easy.
Richard Justice of MLB.com opines that the Braves, Yankees, and Dodgers with Arizona and Seattle as possible fits. In my opinion, there is one team on the horizon that has the perfect mix to acquire Chris Archer, and that team did not make Justice’s list.
Their needs align nearly as perfect as the trade conditions surrounding Chris Archer. That team is the Milwaukee Brewers.
They can not let their fanbase down for the second straight season. Last year they exited the All-Star game a cool 5.5-games up in the National League Central with a 51-41 mark. They slowly began to fade and were out of first place by the end of July. They finished the second half just 36-35.
Over the off-season, Milwaukee made two big splashes to push them over the top. They signed Lorenzo Cain to a significant 5-year/$80MM deal. They also sent four of their prospects to the Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich who is under contract through 2022 (team option of $15MM). He will make $44.5 million from 2018-2021.
This year, the Crew started off the season hot, building a 4.5-game lead in the Division by the end of May. They were a cool 15 games over .500 at 42-27 on June 15th. Since then they have gone 14-18 and are holding a wild card spot by just 1 ½-games.
The Crew entered the 2018 season with a payroll sitting at $90MM (Cot’s Contracts) and owner Mark Attanasio is not afraid to push the payroll up over $100MM, Acquiring Archer who is only owed $7.5MM next season, which would allow the Brewers to remain pliable not only this trade deadline but next off-season as well.
The Brewers have a number of prospects (MLB.com pipeline) that could be packaged together to serve the Rays well over the next several seasons.
In a deal for Archer, the Rays would be looking for at least one player that could be plugged into the rotation immediately and that could be Freddy Peralta or Corbin Burnes. A second pitcher such as Luis Ortiz would have to be paired with one of the two aforementioned arms.
The remainder of the package would include at least two players that do not require 40-man roster protection this off-season. The total compensation to acquire Archer would most likely require 4-5 players,. A steep price to pay for most teams, but one that the Brewers ownership may feel is necessary to put the team over the top.
All told, the Brewers are invested in the now and their fans can’t be let down a second year in a row, they have the financial strength to add Archer to their organization for the next 3+ season without strangling other acquisitions, and they have the farm system with just enough talent to pull of the deal.
Of course, there are other pitchers that may be available for the Brewers to target including Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals. They could also use their prospect equity on a combination of a pitcher and a middle infielder (rumor that they are interested in Brian Dozier).
Today’s news of Brent Suter‘s torn UCL makes the need for Milwaukee to acquire a starting pitcher even greater. Not only for this year’s run, but for 2019 as well. Will they aggressively target Archer? Can they afford not to?
I believe it would take more than the Brewers or any other team would give up to acquire Archer at this point. The three plus seasons of team control are too much for the Rays to deal. Tampa Bay will run the risk of injury or declining performance diminishing his value, but it’s worth the risk at this time.
Although I don’t believe Archer will get dealt at the trade deadline this season, I do believe his name will come up in trade dialogue this winter with an outside chance that he is dealt before spring training 2019. The difference being that the Rays could request more established major leaguers plus additional prospects in a deal.
At this time, a team acquiring him is more than likely hesitant to include any significant piece off their current roster. This would require most of the trade proposals to include prospects only. The Rays would most likely want a major league player with a 3-4 years of control remaining plus several prospects.