Jon Heyman released a top trade possibilities list today, ranking 70 such players who could be dealt this trade season.
The list is an interesting read in its own right, putting a bunch of names on your radar (if they weren’t already) as possible trade candidates this summer. Many if not most will not be plausible Cubs trade targets, but keeping abreast of the market is still useful, since trades can impact other trades, and also, obviously, what opponents do in trade can impact the Cubs down the road.
I wanted to make special mention of the section on Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer, however, as Heyman connects Archer specifically to the Cubs: “The Rays have listened before, but it’d take a haul as he’s a bargain ($19 million to go through ’19). Alex Cobb remains the Ray most likely to go, though if Archer hits the block, some see the Cubs, where he was once a minor leaguer, as a good partner, assuming Rays ownership is finally over the Joe Maddon defection now (they were taking awhile to get past that at last check).”
Archer, 28, was famously included by the Cubs in the trade for Matt Garza before the 2011 season, later emerging as a very solid starter for the Rays. Archer is signed to a deal that pays him just $4.8 million this year, $6.2 million next year, $7.5 million in 2019, and comes with team options in 2020 ($9 million, $1.8 million buyout) and 2021 ($11 million). To say his contract is a bargain is a supreme understatement.
Relatedly, though, it’s fair to say that Archer has settled in as more of a very good starting pitcher than an ace. Although he posted ERAs in the 3.20-3.30 range from 2013 to 2015, he was at 4.02 last year, and sits at 3.76 this year. His peripherals have typically been as good or better than the ERA, though it’s notable that he topped the 3.2 WAR mark just once (5.2 in 2015). At 28 and with a strikeout rate that continues to climb, there’s certainly still some upside potential with Archer, but it’s equally possible that, again, this is just who he is: a very solid, not necessarily spectacular, starting pitcher on a bargain contract.
Of course, that’s still a guy who is worth a whole lot in trade. And it’s still a guy the Cubs should very much pursue, particularly when you consider their rotation needs after this season (Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are the only established starters under team control after this season).
We’ve done this dance before when it comes to Archer rumors, though he is now one year older/one year less control/one so-so season in 2016 further down the road than the last time rumors popped up. Still, it’s hard to imagine plucking Archer from the Rays without a significant trade return, likely including big league talent.
I’m not a fan of putting together hypothetical trade proposals, especially this far out from the Trade Deadline and without more concrete rumors attached, but I can tell you that the names the Rays would be asking about include guys like Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, and maybe even Addison Russell. I’m not saying the Cubs would deal those guys or a combination of those guys – but if you’re the Rays, aren’t you starting the conversations with those names?
Putting a deal together for a controllable arm, as we’ve seen over the past few years of unsuccessful efforts (and other trades around the league), is very difficult. And pricey. Oh so pricey.
So, if you want to see the Cubs wading into these waters – and we’ll track the rumors closely – be prepared to be alarmed at the names and possible packages you see popping up.