7:43pm: In an interview with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Archer called the trade chatter surrounding him “unsettling.” Topkin again notes that the industry sense is that Tampa Bay is more willing than ever to trade Archer, and he adds that a young catcher and a power-hitting outfield prospect would be “a good start” to a package from the Rays’ vantage point.
July 29, 8:58am: The Padres are still regarded as the favorites to land Archer if the Rays deal him, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets. The Braves are also interested, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, who adds that the Rays had a pair of scouts watching Yankees pitching prospect Justus Sheffield at Triple-A on Saturday. However, it’s “a long shot” that the Yankees will acquire Archer, Sherman writes.
July 28, 12:50pm: Add the Yankees and Dodgers to the list of teams who’re pursuing Archer, according to a recent tweet from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
A trade isn’t quite imminent, it seems, as Crasnick notes that it’s difficult to judge whether or not a team will actually pay the Rays’ asking price. After all, Archer can be controlled through 2021 for an average of less than $8MM per season, and is unsurprisingly being donned with a “No. 1 starter type of price tag”. It’s certainly plausible that Archer could be a part of the next contending Rays ballclub considering the wealth of talent in Tampa Bay’s farm system (recently ranked the fourth-best in baseball by MLB.com), which boasts six players among MLB Pipeline’s top 70 prospects.
Then again, the Rays have seen a host of promising prospects go down with Tommy John surgery this season. Right-handers Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon and lefty Anthony Banda were all considered to be about major-league ready this season before each sprained his UCL and had to go under the knife. While one would expect all three to be ready to pitch again by the middle of next season based on the normal Tommy John recovery timeline, we know by now that the surgery isn’t a sure thing, and can lead to deeply-diminished production (Brady Aiken comes to mind as an example). It wouldn’t be out of the question, then, for the Rays to attempt to acquire an upside young arm along with some other valuable pieces in a package for their ace.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted soon after Crasnick’s report that the Padres (who have already been connected to Archer this season) have made progress in talks with the Rays, in part because Tampa Bay has shown “a greater willingness” to deal him. But Passan adds a dissent in agreeing that the price remains high, which has the Padres “balking for now.” We already know that the Padres are unwilling to exchange either of their top two prospects (shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and southpaw Mackenzie Gore), though they’ve shown a willingness to deal second baseman Luis Urias, right-hander Cal Quantrill and even recently-acquired catching prospect Francisco Mejia.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch adds that the Cardinals “remain interested” in Archer, noting that the club attempted to deal for the 29-year-old just this past winter. Goold’s sources tell him that the Cards believe they can line up a “competitive offer”. It’s no surprise that St. Louis would be checking in on all available options to patch their injury-ravaged rotation; the club’s seen right-handers Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez succumb to oblique injuries and can’t know what type of late-2018 contributions to expect from either at this point. Meanwhile, top prospect Alex Reyes, who was expected to play a big role in the club’s plans this year, suffered a season-ending lat injury at the tail end of May. Adam Wainwright continues to be injury-prone and can’t be counted on for any type of meaningful production. The club is currently placing its playoff hopes on the resurgent Miles Mikolas and a cast of rookies including Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver and John Gant.
To be fair, it’s not clear whether Archer is truly worth the price of an “ace”. The right-hander has posted ERAs north of four in each of the past two seasons and currently sports a six-year high figure of 4.31. While it’s true that his FIP (3.62) suggests quite a bit of bad luck has been involved, the same can also be said of each of his previous three seasons- Archer has a reputation as a pitcher whose results consistently fail to keep up with his peripherals. Still, it’s easy to imagine him catching fire and putting together an impressive second-half run, a possibility which plenty of contenders would like to take a chance on.