There was a brief time when Chris Archer + Chicago Cubs was a fun thing to discuss. Well, two brief times, really. First, when he was briefly a rising Cubs prospect, and then again when the first whisper of a trade connection that could have a fully-developed Archer coming back to the Cubs.
Those days have long passed, and, while I still like to muse on the possibility of the Cubs adding Archer to their rotation and I like to deconstruct how his performance this year does or does not bode well for his future, it has grown a bit cumbersome to discuss trade rumors involving Archer and the Cubs.
It is not an exaggeration to say that these rumors go back some three years – offseasons and trade deadlines – and nothing has ever gotten especially close. The Rays have a pitcher on a bargain of a deal that still has so many years left ($6.2M this year, $7.5M next year, $9M team option in 2020, $11M team option in 2021) that they haven’t ever been properly incentivized to be realistic about a trade.
I still tend to doubt that day has come – with the Cubs or anyone else – but the rumors are hot this week on Archer, and the Cubs’ name has been dragged into it now:
Update on Chris Archer trade market: At least 8 teams have shown interest, with #Cubs, #Phillies, #DBacks and #Padres among the clubs scouting his start on Sunday. Full story: https://t.co/jstZh3zRRX @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 25, 2018
As Jon Morosi reports, the Cubs are one of at least eight teams interested in Archer, scouted him on Sunday, and “a deal involving Archer is more likely now than at any point in recent memory.”
That certainly doesn’t mean a deal is likely, again, for the contractual reasons noted above. There’s also the reality that, despite a strong performance this weekend, Archer’s overall age 29 season has been uneven (4.30 ERA, 25.6% K rate (lowest in four years), 7.5% BB rate (up from last year)). There’s also the persistent issue where his ERA is pretty much always significantly higher than his peripherals suggest, largely because he gives up a buttload (technical term) of hard contact, and gets very little soft contact. In other words, Archer’s success is largely predicated on his ability to get a lot of strikeouts and not walk anyone, so this year’s regression in those areas – even if the numbers still look good – is scary.
Because of the contract, any team in baseball – literally any team in baseball – would want to have Archer. I won’t dispute that. But when you think about what trade partners will be willing to pay, I’m not sure the Cubs will be the top suitor, given the already-anticipated crowding in their rotation after this season.
To be abundantly clear, I’m not saying the Cubs wouldn’t happily find a spot for him and bump another back-end starter or two from the rotation in 2019. I’m saying, though, that when that crowding is factored into the trade calculus, the Cubs may feel less urgency to make a deal than other teams out there.
You also have to be realistic about what Archer – even in a regressed statistical state – would cost the Cubs. Since the Cubs have no upper level impact prospects, you’re talking about multiple big league pieces, and then a whole lot of whatever minor leaguers the Rays want. It would be a decimating kind of trade, especially if Archer doesn’t start suddenly getting results that match his peripherals (his ERA has been markedly higher than his FIP each of the last four years, and it’s not like the Rays have always had a garbage defense).
So, whatever. Bring on the rumors. I highly doubt anything happens, and heck, I kinda hope Archer is traded to the Padres, which is the crazy rumor of the day. Bring on the trade chaos!