Tampa Bay Rays Trade Candidate: Chris Archer

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Chris Archer

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer has seemingly had his name in trade rumors for years now. With Archer just being activated off the disabled list, the non-waiver trade deadline just three weeks away and the Rays looking like sellers, you can bet the trade chatter around him will begin to pick up again as we get closer to the July 31st deadline. Is now the time for the Rays to finally pull the trigger on an Archer trade?

Tampa Bay Rays Trade Candidate: Chris Archer

There are several reasons that Archer has been an appealing trade target to other teams. For one, he’s pretty good. Despite a 54-67 record over 175 career appearances (173 starts), the two-time All-Star owns a solid 3.67 career ERA to go along with 3.49 FIP and 1.22 WHIP. He’s paired a high-velocity fastball with a wipeout slider to become one of the league’s best strikeout pitchers over the last few years. Archer’s fanned 1,120 batters over 1,043.1 innings, good for a K/9 of 9.66 for his career.

Archer’s also been very durable. He made at least 32 starts in each of the last four seasons. In addition, he pitched more than 200 innings in each of the last three seasons. A big part of his value also comes with his contract. With team options at the end of it, Archer can be controlled through the 2021 season, and will be owed just over $24 million total over the next three years. However, all of those reasons other teams want Archer are the same reasons the Rays have placed a very high price tag on him (back in March, one team said the Rays “wanted our whole farm” for Archer), an asking price no team has been willing to meet so far.

Diminishing asset?

The Rays will trade Archer eventually. Unfortunately for them, it’s starting to look as though they may have missed an opportunity to cash him in while his value was at its highest, and now they may end up trading him for less than they once could have gotten.

Archer isn’t as controllable or as young as he used to be, as the right-hander turns 30 in September. In 13 starts this season, Archer is 3-4 with a 4.24 ERA. He also finished the last two seasons with an ERA over 4.00. It seems teams haven’t been overly concerned about Archer’s mediocre ERA because other metrics suggested he deserved better. For example, while Archer’s ERA last season was 4.07, his FIP was just 3.40. That was largely thanks to him recording 249 strikeouts in 201 innings, good for a gaudy K/9 rate of 11.15.

However, Archer’s strikeouts have dipped this season. He’s struck out 76 batters over 76.1 innings, good for 8.96 per nine innings. While that’s still a solid rate, it’s also a pretty big drop for Archer. His K/9 rates over the last three seasons were 10.70, 10.42 and 11.15, respectively. His FIP is 3.80, which is also pretty solid, but also not quite as good as last year. These days, most people consider FIP to be a better way of evaluating pitchers. At some point, though, teams may get tired of waiting for Archer’s results to catch up to his peripherals.

Furthermore, as durable as Archer’s been over his career, he just made his first trip to the disabled list. A left abdominal strain sidelined him for a little over five weeks. The good news, however, is that isn’t as concerning as any sort of arm injury would have been.

Will Archer finish 2018 in Tampa Bay?

It’s possible that Archer comes off the DL and looks good enough over the next few weeks that a team decides to make a great offer for him, and that the Rays finally decide to accept it. It’s more likely, though, that any Archer trade right now would be selling low on him. Considering how highly the Rays have valued Archer, and considering they can still have him for three more seasons at affordable salaries if they want to, it’s hard to believe they’d do that. There’s still no rush for the Rays trade to trade Archer, unless they’re concerned about his value continuing to diminish.

Another thing to consider is how thin Tampa Bay’s rotation is right now. A glut of injuries they’ve suffered through all year long have led to the Rays recently only having two pitchers they use as traditional starters in Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi, which Archer now returning to give the Rays a three-man rotation. There also seems like a pretty good chance Eovaldi will be traded, as he’s a pending free agent who there seems to be some interest in. So it might be difficult for the Rays to trade Archer right now unless they’re getting at least one MLB-ready starting pitcher back as part of the return.

The good news for the Rays is that, prior to his injury, Archer had been pitching pretty well. He got off to a tough start to the season, finishing April with a 6.61 ERA and 4.41 FIP through his first six starts. In six starts in May, however, he had a 2.33 ERA and 3.46 FIP. The likely scenario is that the Rays don’t receive an offer for Archer over the next few weeks that they find acceptable and he finishes the season with them. The Rays will then hope that Archer spends the rest of the season building back up his value before they revisit a potential trade in the off-season.

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