Rays starter Chris Archer has been one of the most consistently discussed potential trade chips in baseball for several years, yet he has stayed in Tampa Bay even as many rotation mates have been traded away. Now, though, it could finally be time for a deal to go down, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes.
Archer, who turns 30 later this season, expressed a desire to “experience winning” in comments to Topkin. Though Archer chose his words carefully and hardly issued anything approaching a trade demand, the right-hander perhaps at least hinted that it might be best for the sides to part ways — depending, at least, upon the Tampa Bay organization’s intentions. As he put it:
“If I’m going to be here. I want the process of not going to the playoffs to be expedited. … I’ve seen the transition. I’m not saying I’m not happy, but I know that we are still transitioning. And the faster we can speed that up and get back to the 2008 through ’13, ’14 days, the better.”
Ratcheting up the contention timeline hardly appears to be the present priority for a Rays front office that has been hard at work moving large contracts and adding future-oriented assets. While the team’s solid play has been quite a pleasant surprise, the postseason seems out of reach in a monumentally stratified American League.
It came as no great surprise, then, when the Rays shipped out Alex Colome and Denard Span earlier in the season. And the club’s focus at the trade deadline figures to be on finding homes for a few pending free agents while also weighing bigger potential swaps. With the Rays having perhaps already placed emergent starter Blake Snell out of reach, the attention seems likely to end up on Archer.
To be sure, Archer has not been at his best this year — or, in truth, for the past two seasons either. Despite still-strong K/BB numbers, continued mid-nineties velocity, and a steady ~12-13% swinging-strike rate, Archer has allowed more than four earned per nine since the start of 2016. And this year, he’s allowing hard contact at a career-worst 41.5% rate.
Along with the less-than-exciting results, the cheapest years of Archer’s early-career extension are now in the past. But he certainly still remains a respected arm who comes with an appealing price tag. The deal promises him $7.5MM next year and includes $9MM and $11MM options that come with $2MM in cumulative buyouts.
With the end of the deal now in sight, and Archer no longer nearly the incredible value as he once was, the stars could be lining up for a move. It doesn’t hurt that, given the shabby state of the market for rental starters, teams in search of higher-end arms will be forced to go after pitchers whose present clubs are not compelled to make a move. That could drive prices up, though at some point there’ll presumably also be enough demand to interest one or more selling organization. Archer is one of several starters in the same general boat, as we covered in our recent ranking of the 75 top deadline trade candidates.
As Topkin notes, at the end of the day the Rays will need to see enough of a return to make it worth their while to part with a player who still holds plenty of upside. Particularly given that Archer only just returned from the DL, his next few outings my help determine whether another organization puts a compelling offer on the table.