Rebuilding teams tend to trade away their star players to bolster their farm system, and the Tampa Bay Rays have been following that path accordingly. But they’d be wise to hold onto righty Chris Archer through this season.
The Rays are currently third in the American League East at 31-35. While they have been somewhat competitive, it’s clear that they’re likely not going to be competing for an American League Wild Card seeding — which leads many to speculate that they’ll ship off their veteran players. And based on what they’ve done in recent memory, it’s very well possible that the purge will continue — one that could eventually include Archer.
The Rays have traded franchise third baseman Evan Longoria, Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr., Brad Boxberger, Tim Beckham, Denard Span, and Brad Miller within the last year. They even designated outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment in the offseason — which confused many — and let Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison walk in free agency. Plus, they traded away David Price in 2015; it’s clear as day that the Rays are building for the next four-to-five years, as opposed to the next two. But it doesn’t mean that every single valuable player has to be shipped off; you’re allowed to have good players on a 25-man roster in a rebuild.
Archer has shown the ability to be a force on the hill; he’s a strikeout pitcher (Archer struck out 230-plus batters from 2015-17) who is also an innings-eater (Archer pitched 200-plus innings from 2015-17). He hits the high 90s on his fastball, can command the zone, and is a crafty pitcher. Over the last five years, he’s been viewed as one of the best righties in the game. The problem with Archer is that he hasn’t pitched at a high level or close to it since 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, the righty recorded ERAs over four and surrendered a career-high in hits in the latter year (193). This season, he’s putting together the worse season (statistically) of his seven-year career ever since becoming a consistent starter in 2013. Currently owning a 4.24 ERA and career-worst 1.34 WHIP, Archer has struggled to be a potent force on the hill. He’s lollygagging through at-bats, getting hit hard, and is off to a discouraging start to the 2018 season. And at this point, lefty Blake Snell has established himself as the ace, or, at the very least, the best starting pitcher on manager Kevin Cash‘s staff.A popular suggestion in Tampa is to trade ace @ChrisArcher22 and continue the rebuild. @RPStratakos makes a case for the @RaysBaseball to keep the right-hander.Click To Tweet
Considering that Archer has still not returned to being the ace of the old, it makes sense why management would contemplate trading him. But the bigger reason why teams will inquire about Archer is his team-friendly contract. Under team-control through 2021 at less than $9 million per year, the righty is an intriguing trade target for teams looking to add a pitcher at the trade deadline. Before hitting the 10-day disabled list on June 5 with a left abdominal strain, Archer had also never been placed on the disabled list.
The amount of high-caliber starters reportedly available on the trade market is slim. And given the lack of depth at the position, in terms of trade candidates, Archer’s name is poised to be thrown into the mix. In fact, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, one rival executive feels that the Rays will have “almost no choice” but to trade Archer based on him potentially being one of the better pitchers available. But if Archer is on the disabled list for an extended period of time, or he continues to pitch at the underwhelming rate which he is, why would any team give up a massive haul for him?
If the Rays don’t trade Archer at the deadline, they’ll still have teams knocking on their front door for his services at the winter meetings. And if Tampa Bay holds onto Archer, and he pitches well, or returns to pitching at the elite level of old, his value will rise. He’d also still be under contract for the next three seasons. Sure, Archer could bring back a nice haul via trade now, but based on the way he’s been performing this season, chances are the Rays wouldn’t get a return that would blow them away.
The Rays have sold the house, and they’re trying to remove all the furniture from within it. Chris Archer is the biggest piece of furniture left, but the Rays shouldn’t make a move for the sake of making one; they should be waiting for the right trade offer to come around because a return for Archer isn’t going to be a franchise-altering one at the moment.