The 2017 MLB Draft is now in the rearview (though the signing period is in full swing), which means we are officially on into trade rumor season.
With the Chicago Cubs very talented, ensconced in a very winnable division, and stuck around .500, you can bet they’ll be involved in trade rumors aplenty, particularly centered around the needy rotation. In particular, the Cubs would probably love to be able to add a starting pitcher who can contribute not only in the second half of this season as the Cubs look to push back into the playoffs, but also after this season when the needs in the rotation will remain significant.
To that end, Jeff Passan was on The Score today and dropped a perfectly fitting rumor:
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) June 19, 2017
We’ve talked about the fit with Archer plenty around here, so there’s not necessarily a surprise there:
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.
This year, Archer has looked something closer to elite, posting a 3.75 ERA, a 2.88 FIP, and a 3.32 xFIP through 98.1 innings, with a 30.1% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate. Want.
As Passan notes, though, the hangup in trading for a steady, high-upside starter on the right side of 30 with a bargain contract is that it’s going to require elite, impact talent in return. Eloy Jimenez continues to improve his prospect standing, and it’s difficult to see the Cubs realistically putting together a package for Archer that doesn’t include Jimenez (and then some) unless they’re willing to dip into the big league roster.
I think there would be some understandable reluctance there by the Cubs, as their previous wave of positional talent establishes itself at the big league level (or fails to do so) and becomes very expensive, the reality is that having a cost-controlled impact bat like Jimenez’s to come along over the next few years might not be a luxury – it might be a necessity. And I don’t think you’ll find too many pundits out there who would argue if you said Jimenez’s offensive upside is right up there with the best prospects in baseball.
But to get a pitcher like Archer is going to cost something like that (again, and then some). I’d have mixed feelings on this, because I’m a particular believer in Jimenez’s future, but I also very much want the Cubs to pick up a controlled starting pitcher before this offseason rolls around. There’s not a contending team out there (and several rebuilding teams, too) that wouldn’t want Archer. Competition, were he made available, would be fierce. And as we saw the last couple winters with trades involving guys like Chris Sale and Shelby Miller, the market is going to dictate a significant price.
We should probably not treat this comment by Passan as anything TOO firm, in terms of the rumor, but Archer really is a name to watch.
There will be a whole lot of chatter between now and the July 31 Trade Deadline. Things are just getting started.
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