Is Pitcher Chris Archer a Ray of Hope for the Dodgers?

Trade deadline rumors can be predictable. Struggling small market team X could trade star player Y. New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago interested, per sources.

More often than not, those are media fabrications or intentional leaks. We’re seeing it this year with Sonny Gray and Chris Archer. We’ll continue to see it until both players are actually traded. That’s the nature of the beast; the beast being a small market franchise.

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Gray’s name has popped up frequently among Dodger fans, though he remains unlikely to be moved. Archer is in similar position, but recent rumblings have created intrigue. Connecting the Andrew Friedman-Tampa Bay dots adds fuel to the fire. Now journalists around the nation have decided to jump in on the fun.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Los Angeles had been “sniffing hard” on Archer, but was denied. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the Dodgers, among other teams, had scouts in St. Petersburg to watch Archer on July 15.

The rumors seemed to be no more than smoke. ESPN’s Buster Olney said on Sunday:

“Rays have told teams Chris Archer is not available unless somebody totally overwhelms them. So, he’s not available.”

Olney reiterated what most assumed, but he left the door open with “unless somebody totally overwhelms”. Then Jerry Crasnick dropped this nugget on Wednesday:

Not to be outdone, Jayson Stark set Dodgers Nation ablaze Thursday afternoon.

70 percent? Even speaking anonymously, it’s rare to hear an executive so confident. Unless reporters have conspired on the rumor, it appears Archer is of particular interest to the Dodgers. It’s time to talk seriously about acquiring him, be it this month or in the future.

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Archer is in the midst of a throwaway season, but there’s been too much overreaction. He isn’t declining. The narrative that he’s been awful is untrue. The advanced metrics support a resurgence.

His strikeout numbers are still heavy: He’s first in the American League (147) and his slider remains perhaps the best put-away pitch in the game. Typically, power pitchers’ declines can be anticipated with lower velocity (his is hovering around 95) and regressing strikeout numbers.

[graphiq id=”9G9IQBMOEjr” title=”Chris Archer Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/9G9IQBMOEjr” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/383/Chris-Archer” link_text=”Chris Archer Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

Beyond the box score did a large analytical piece on Archer. By the end of the study, nothing stood out as reason for a constant decline. The piece referenced another study by Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs. Sullivan looked at Archer and noticed a difference in where Archer was placing his plant foot. On top of that, Sullivan recently explained why he loves an Archer-Dodgers marriage.

BrooksBaseball.net noted Archer’s inconsistent release. Be it his release or footwork, it appears Archer is fixable. Concerns about his 2016 season should exist but be mitigated by his physical ability and repairable mechanics.

Regarding this year’s campaign, the 4-13 win-loss record doesn’t paint the whole picture; it doesn’t help either.

The ERA (4.60) is concerning. His 4.14 FIP isn’t much better. Now would be a good time to remind readers about Archer’s 2015: 12-13, 3.23 ERA, 2.90 FIP. Last season was better than his averages, this season is well below. How one chooses to view it is totally subjective.

What’s not subjective is Archer’s financial value. He is under team control through 2021. The highest annual salary in the deal is $8.25M per year. That’s one of the best values in baseball. It would not only give the Dodgers a second (third, if Urias progresses as expected) ace, but also one whose contract wouldn’t interfere with future negotiations.

While Dodger, Cub and Ranger fans think of that as a huge plus, it’s a negative in that it provides significantly less reason for the Rays to move him. Tampa Bay was forced into trading James Shields and David Price in recent years due to financial restraints. Archer could be the ace of the next winning Rays team. Hence Olney stating it would take an overpay.

Blake Snell has made his way to the Majors and is a potential top of the rotation starter. So there’s an internal option to replace Archer who fits Tampa’s contention timeline. But why shuffle the chairs? The Rays could keep both. The Dodgers would have to help balance Tampa’s roster. That means assisting the Rays in fixing an offense that’s struggled since winning the American League pennant in 2009. Multiple minor league arms isn’t getting this done.

Los Angeles could make the Rays a tantalizing  offensive-offer. However, the organization should fight to keep Cody Bellinger out of it. Fortunately, there’s enough offense to still build an impressive haul without him, though the Rays may be less inclined.

Instead of Bellinger, headline the package with pitcher Jose De Leon. It’s painful to cough up such a prospect, but De Leon is just three years younger than Archer. Archer is a known commodity (if we are to believe this season to be an anomaly).

For a team in win-now mode, this isn’t a bad route to pursue. Acquiring an ace lessens the blow of parting with De Leon. An elite arm would appeal to Tampa, just not standing alone. That’s where the rest of the offer puts it over the top.

Los Angeles trades: P Jose De Leon, OF Alex Verdugo, 2B Willie Calhoun, C Austin Barnes, 3B/C Kyle Farmer

Los Angeles receives: P Chris Archer

The Rays make out very well in this deal. They add De Leon to complement Snell as a 1-2 punch. Verdugo and Calhoun would be mixtures in the lineup long-term. Barnes would be the best catcher on the MLB roster right now, so he provides immediate impact.

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Farmer is a catcher, infielder hybrid who is an ideal “tools” developmental prospect. De Leon, Verdugo, Calhoun and Barnes could all be argued as top 10 prospects in the system. De Leon and Verdugo are without question; Calhoun and Barnes are just outside. Farmer is top 30.

That’s a massive return for Tampa. It might be an overpay for Los Angeles, but 1) an overpay is necessary to acquire Archer and 2) take a closer look before declaring it too rich.

Consider the Cole Hamels trade a barometer for acquiring a controllable ace (Archer’s theoretical value is higher than Hamels’ was, but his struggles muddy that discussion). Texas traded four of its top 13 prospects to get it done. Remember when Milwaukee traded for Zack Greinke?

Kansas City acquired Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress in the trade – all highly regarded, and all directly or indirectly helped the Royals claim a championship. When Toronto acquired the 38-year-old 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, it took a package headlined by two top 25 overall prospects in Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. Both helped the Mets to the fall classic last year.

Those trades should serve as cautionary tales as much as blueprints. The values are comparable to the deal proposed here. Again, Archer’s value would transcend the other dealt aces’ if not for the bump in the road known as 2016. Tampa knows it too.

The proposed deal strengthened L.A.’s rotation now and later without hurting the major league roster.

Ultimately, the franchise can replace all it traded. Like Texas, the Dodgers are operating from a position of power and can withstand the blow of losing four of their top 15 prospects. If the trade costs less than what’s proposed, kudos to Friedman for shrewd negotiating.

Archer may or may not be pitching home games at Chavez Ravine in August, but one thing is certain: The rumors won’t go away anytime soon. If Archer is a realistic possibility, the Dodgers should step up to the plate and add another anchor to their rotation.

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Gabe Burns

Gabe Burns is an award-winning journalist. He serves as a reporter and editor at the DodgersNation news desk. He additionally works as editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Valdosta State University's student paper. Gabe's work has been featured on a number of platforms, including Draft Breakdown and Pro Football Spot. His byline has been cited in media such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Aside from covering Dodgers baseball, Gabe enjoys watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning. He can be followed on Twitter at @GabeBurns_DN.


  1. With all due
    respect, it appears you are writing/recommending this trade from Tampa Bay’s
    viewpoint.First of all, Chris Archer is
    a good to very good pitcher.I would
    love to see him in the Dodger rotation.But
    he is not an Ace.He is a workhorse/strike
    out pitcher.When you talk about Archer’s
    theoretical value compared to Cole Hamels you have to be placing a high factor
    on age and contract.But Archer is not
    the pitcher that Cole Hamels is.Archer’s
    career ERA/WHIP is 3.56/1.225, while Hamels is 3.29/1.154.Yes Archer has more K/9, but his K/BB ratio
    is 3.63 while Hamels is 2.95.
    Now for the
    return.It’s interesting that you
    pointed out KC’s Greinke trade to Milwaukee.That did not help Milwaukee, but did help the Royals to two WS and one
    WS championship.I think that is what is
    being offered here.I recognize that the
    Rays have absolutely no catching at the ML level or in the farm.But you propose to send both top catching prospects
    in the Dodger organization.AJ Ellis is
    probably done this year, so who replaces him as the backup?You want to move Barnes, okay, but not Barnes
    and Farmer.While Zarraga can hit, he is
    slower than me on the base paths, and I have had three knee surgeries.You want 2 catchers, include Jack Murphy.
    You also
    want to include two of the top offensive Dodger prospects.The Dodgers do not have many offensive weapons
    at the upper farm levels, Verdugo and Calhoun are two of their best at AA.Alex Verdugo just turned 20 in May, and is one
    of the top offensive players in AA.And
    Willie Calhoun has shown very good power at a young age.To me, Alex Verdugo is about as untouchable
    as the Astros’ Alex Bregman.I recognize
    to get quality you need to give up quality, and while losing Calhoun would
    hurt, I think that including him would be considered.
    You make it
    sound as if Tampa Bay has a bunch of SP.Blake Snell will become the Ace whether Archer is traded or not.Alex Cobb will be back later this year (not
    important) and all of next year.If
    Archer stays, Odorizzi or Moore will be moved.Drew Smyly is not an option for most teams.And the only two pitching prospects Tampa Bay
    has is Brent Honeywell and Taylor Guerrieri, both at AA.Jacob Faria is not at the level of the
    Dodgers’ Jharel Cotton, much less Ross Stripling/Brock Stewart/Trevor Oaks.So to say that including minor league arms
    just won’t do, the Rays do not have that many to bank on.
    Jose De Leon
    is three years younger and has the potential to surpass Archer.His K/9 this year is greater than 13, and his
    minor league career is greater than 12.He is ready for the ML now.I am
    not going to say he is at the Blake Snell level, but he is considered a #2
    level.I know fans have a tendency to
    over value their prospects, but I do not see that much of an upgrade (if any)
    from Chris Archer.
    I am an
    Andrew Friedman supporter, but if he were to do the deal that you proposed, I
    would have to think he is still employed by Tampa Bay.The Rays are not going to get Cole Hamels
    return from the Dodgers because Cole Hamels is a better pitcher and the Dodgers
    did not make the trade last year.
    I understand
    that the Rays do not need to trade Archer, and to get him, the opposing team is
    going to have to overpay.That is good
    leverage for Tampa Bay.But Archer’s
    value is his contract.That should not
    be a consideration for the Dodgers.If
    the Rays want to trade with LA, then they are going to have to look at the
    strength of the Dodger organization; RHSP.Jharel Cotton and the choice of Stripling/Stewart/Oaks, Austin Barnes,
    Willie Calhoun, and the pick of Josh Sborz/Andy Sopko. If you want ML hitting, pull back the High A
    pitchers and include Trayce Thompson.That is more than a fair return for Chris Archer.Is Archer having a bad year, or is this who
    he really is?To be considered an Ace,
    he needs to at least have 1 year with an ERA south of 3.00.

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