12:15pm: The Dodgers are also still “in play,” Jim Bowden of The Athletic tweets.
6:09pm: Despite some prior indications to the contrary, the Yankees remain involved in Archer’s market, per Andy Martino of SNY.tv (via Twitter). There are five additional clubs still involved as well, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports: the Padres, Braves, Brewers, and two unnamed organizations.
5:24pm: The Rays have asked interested teams to make their best and final offers for right-hander Chris Archer, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay has been in touch with roughly a dozen teams about Archer and could spend tonight and tomorrow morning reviewing those offers before ultimately making a call on whether to deal Archer.
It should be noted that it’s far from a certainty that Archer is dealt at all. There’s a mix in the tone of reports surrounding the possibility of an Archer trade that is likely reflective of the lack of an industry consensus on whether he’ll actually be traded. For instance, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that there’s a stronger sense than ever before that Archer will finally move, as the Rays are cognizant that he’s approaching his 30th birthday and this may be their final chance to get an enormous haul for him.
On the flipside, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale spoke to one executive familiar with the market who took an “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach (Twitter link). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, meanwhile, spoke to an exec who said he still feels Tampa Bay will need to be “overwhelmed” and, despite years of rumors, still “[doesn’t] see it happening.”
The full slate of teams who have submitted (or plan on submitting) an offer for Archer isn’t yet known. Over the weekend, the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees and Cardinals were all connected rather prominently to Archer, though Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweeted today that the Yankees are viewed as an “unlikely” fit for Archer. Sherman added earlier today that the Pirates have jumped into the mix as well, while the Brewers and the Athletics have both at least touched base.
The Padres, meanwhile, have been rumored to be the most aggressive pursuing Archer, envisioning him as a rotation fixture in 2019 and beyond as San Diego emerges from its rebuild and aims to contend. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote today that San Diego has been “especially engaged” in the Archer market, though he notes that the Friars have not yet been willing to meet Tampa Bay’s lofty asking price. Topkin wrote yesterday that a young catcher and controllable power-hitting outfielder would be “a good start” to a package from the Rays’ vantage point, though Tampa Bay will obviously be seeking numerous young pieces in return for three-plus years of the right-hander.
Archer, 29, obviously remains a popular trade target despite a month-long stint on the disabled list and some bottom-line results that haven’t lined up with his peripheral stats in recent seasons. That’s once again the case in 2018, as Archer is sitting on a 4.31 ERA despite possessing a 3.62 FIP and xFIP as well as a 3.75 SIERA. He’s averaged a strong 9.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 with Tampa Bay this season and has made moderate gains in terms of swinging-strike rate (13.6 percent) and chase rate (32.3 percent). Archer is allowing just one homer per nine innings after struggling with the long ball in recent seasons, and he’s also boosted his ground-ball rate nearly three percent, from 42.0 up to 44.7.
Of course, the big draw with Archer is the affordability of his contract. He’s owed $2.o8MM through the end of the current season and is guaranteed just $7.5MM in 2019 before the Rays (or an acquiring team) have club options valued at $9MM and $11MM for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. In all, Archer can be controlled through 2021 for as little as $29.58MM, and in the event of a significant injury, he can be cut loose after 2019 and owed only a total of $11.33MM through the end of 2019.