To be suuuuuper duper clear up front, a Chris Archer trade – certainly this offseason – has always been a sub-50% proposition.
Although rumblings persisted in the early part of the offseason that the Rays were definitely going to trade at least one starting pitcher, and that starting pitcher very well could be Chris Archer, the combination of his uniquely under market contract and his down-ish 2016 season made finding the right match in trade very difficult.
There were debates about whether Archer (and his contract) is actually more valuable than Chris Sale (and his contract), and, so, when Sale was sent to Boston for a prospect haul, the chances of the Rays finding an acceptable trade offer probably dropped even lower.
And, specific to the Cubs, with their prospect currency being where it is, a trade was going to be impossible without dipping into the young talent on the big league roster, at which point you risk robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Against that backdrop, a Peter Gammons report pretty much closes the book on the slim odds that Archer is dealt at all this offseason, to the Cubs or any other team.
“(Astros GM Jeff) Luhnow went to Tampa, from what I’m told, and said, ‘Alright, this is what we’ll give you for Chris Archer,'” Gammons said. “‘We’ll give you (No. 2 prospect, outfielder Kyle Tucker), we’ll give you (Francis Martes, their top pitching prospect), we’ll give you David Paulino,’ who’s their second-best pitching prospect, ‘(and we’ll) give you two more prospects for Archer.’ And Tampa Bay, which kinda surprised me, said, ‘Nope, we need more than that if we’re gonna trade Chris Archer.'”
In other words, trying to overwhelm the Rays with a bunch of prospects – top notch prospects, even – would not be enough to get a deal done right now. Which is not entirely unreasonable, by the way, given Archer’s value. I can only presume that they’d want significant big league-ready talent if they were going to make a trade.
And if that offer doesn’t come? Well, the Rays have Archer under cheap team control for five more years.