Rumors are just rumors until they are not, but if the talk that is out there is to be believed, the Dodger front office could be looking to finally pull the trigger on a true #2 pitcher for the rotation.
Before you say, “not gonna happen,” there a few points that are in the favor of this deal coming to fruition. First off, there is the Tampa Bay connection between Archer and Dodger president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman. This means a great deal on two fronts. One: Friedman knows Archer and may understand why Archer is having an off year so far (more on this later). Two: Archer is signed to one of those deals that Friedman and company favor–he is in the middle of a very economical 6-year, $25.5 million dollar contract that expires in 2019 and has two more years of team options tacked on.
So, financially-speaking, going after Archer could make sense to the Dodgers. They have already committed major dollars to Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-jin Ryu, so they aren’t looking to take on another huge contract for their rotation. And Archer fits the mold in terms of a guy who is an ace on another team and could play a nice sidekick to Kershaw (not Zack Greinke, but who is?).
The real question, of course, is whether the Dodgers are willing to give up some of their prized prospects for a pitcher who has proved in his 4.5-year MLB career that he can be lights-out, but is having a down season. Looking at Archer this year, you kind of need to throw out his lousy 4-13 record because the Rays are so bad (over 20 games below .500). While his SO9 rate is nearly the same as last year when he was an All-Star, a sizzling 10.4, his HR/FB rate has jumped up like crazy from 10.4 last year to 17.4 this year. Sitting on 20 home runs allowed, he has already surpassed the 19 he gave up all of last season; he would lead the Dodger staff in this dubious category (Kazmir currently leads with 16 homers). He is also sporting a .315 BABIP and a WHIP of 1.415, the highest of his career.
These stats don’t seem like those of a #2, but Archer’s stuff has proven electric and he is still a youthful 27 years old. It could be one of those “fresh start” situations–new venue, new pitching coach, something to actually play for, etc., that could turn him around. Also, it’s possible that being the #2 behind Kershaw instead of the #1 could alleviate some of the pressure he might be feeling as the guy who replaced David Price. It’s hard to say what is “wrong” with him this year, but provided that he doesn’t have some sort of hidden injury, he could break out of his funk and bring the Dodgers the true #2 that they have been desperate for all season.
But make no mistake about it, even though Archer’s numbers are off, Tampa Bay is said to be asking for something big in return for teams seeking Archer’s services since the market for good starting pitching is very thin. How big would the Dodgers have to go? Probably at least Jose De Leon and Frankie Montas big, I am guessing. Maybe even Yasiel Puig thrown in as well. Is Archer worth it? Given that Kershaw’s status is scarily unknown, Ryu is down again (who knows if he’ll be back this year or ever), Maeda hasn’t been looking sharp as of late, Kazmir is uneven, McCarthy is still a guy fresh off of Tommy John surgery, and Alex Wood is out now out for at least eight more weeks, I would answer this question YES. As the age-old saying goes, prospects are prospects until they prove otherwise. Archer is a known quantity.
Whether or not the Dodgers agree will be determined sooner rather than later. Archer would improve the rotation for years to come, but would cost a pretty prospect package. Archer is scheduled to make his audition for the Rays on Tuesday against the Dodgers, so they’ll have a firsthand look at him.