If it seems that Chris Archer has been in trade rumors for years, that’s because he has. We’ve seen his name presented for quite some time as a top potential target for teams seeking young, affordable starting pitching. That happened again this summer, though it was far from clear in the run-up to yesterday’s deadline whether he’d be traded.
When the dust settled, Archer was finally on the move — and to something of a surprise destination. He’s heading to the Pirates in a deal that sends outfield prospect Austin Meadows, righty Tyler Glasnow, and a still-unknown player to be named later. Until we know the final piece of the deal, it’s a bit difficult to assess it fully, but indications are that it’s another asset of significant value.
For the Rays, it’s a familiar type of swap, though they’ve typically waited until free agency was a bit closer to ship out pitching assets. They’ll get three highly controllable assets in return; Glasnow entered the season with less than a full year of MLB service and Meadows just debuted.
There’s risk in the new Tampa Bay talent, of course. Glasnow has shown a big arm but still hasn’t harnessed it. The Bucs have utilized him as a reliever this year and he’s still issuing 5.5 walks per nine. The upside remains tremendous, though. Meanwhile, Meadows can boast of a top-prospect pedigree and a .292/.327/.468 slash line in his first 49 MLB contests. But he hasn’t hit all that much in the upper minors since the start of the 2017 season and had slid down prospect rankings entering the current campaign.
From an organizational perspective, the Rays are increasingly utilizing hybrid hurlers over 200-inning starters. They could see Glasnow as a great fit for a more flexible role. And Meadows could be a long-term asset in the outfield. Plus, there’s still a bonus piece we don’t know about. And with Archer’s commitment off the books, the budget-conscious Rays have plenty of wiggle room financially.
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Meanwhile, Archer has his own risks. He is plenty affordable, but increasingly expensive ($6.25MM this year, $7.5MM next, with $20MM in options to follow for 2020 and 2021). It has been some time now since his bottom-line results have matched up with the shiny peripherals, and Archer is now closing in on his 30th birthday.
At the same time, the righty is a quality performer even if he’s not a front-line starter. Archer has averaged over 200 innings annually from 2014 through 2017. He’s posting career-best 13.6% swinging-strike rate on the year and seems a good bet at least to improve upon his current 4.31 ERA.
Perhaps Archer isn’t an ace and won’t be enough to help the Bucs complete a drive to the postseason (the odds of which still seem long). Still, there’s an argument to be made that this is a sensible baseball swap for a team that knows well the players it is parting with.
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