With every day that passes that free agent starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta remained unsigned, the big question looms: will the Dodgers get suckered into giving a multi-year, $100 million contract to a starter over the age of 30?
They didn’t re-sign Zack Greinke under the same circumstances two years ago, why would they do it now? Darvish seems like the safer bet if they do decide to go that route. But, there is a much better, cheaper option just a phone call away to Andrew Friedman’s old stomping grounds in Tampa Bay, Chris Archer.
Need pocket aces
While there is plenty of rotational depth already on the team, a second front-line starter is necessary to compete for another chance to get back to the World Series. Sure, Alex Wood and Rich Hill are fine options behind Clayton Kershaw. Youngsters Julio Urias and Walker Buehler are the future, but cannot be counted on for a full season of starter innings just yet. How about getting a guy who struck out more batters per nine innings (K/9) than Kershaw last season? Chris Archer was in elite company:
- Chris Sale (BOS) 12.93 K/9
- Robbie Ray (ARI) 12.11 K/9
- Max Scherzer (WAS) 12.02 K/9 (2017 NL Cy Young award winner)
- Corey Kluber (CLE) 11.71 K/9 (2017 AL Cy Young award winner)
- Chris Archer (TAM) 11.15 K/9
9. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 10.39 K/9
Been doing that
29-year-old, right-handed, starting pitcher Chris Archer has been a workhorse for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has posted those elite K rates, all above 10.00 K/9, and thrown more than 200 innings the last three seasons (2015-2017). He threw 194.2 innings in 2014 also. His walk rates are fine, right around 3.00 BB/9 for his career, but the knock on him in 2016 and 2017 was home runs allowed. That ballooned his ERA to over 4.00 the last two seasons. Pitching in the AL East and facing a designated hitter every night has done him no favors, but I am willing to bet he is better in that department if he comes over to the NL. Playing on a team that hasn’t been in a divisional race since 2013, I believe Archer will step up his play pitching for a team chasing another pennant like the Dodgers.
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Best reason to make the trade
Archer is currently signed to a team-friendly contract that will pay him only $6.2 million in 2018, $7.5 million in 2019, and has cheap team options for both 2020 ($9M) and 2021 ($11M). Compare that to the at least $20 million/year contract both Darvish and Arrieta are surely commanding right now, Archer is the biggest bargain ever. At age 29, Archer figures to have a few more, good years left in that right arm. The cheap contract also gives the front office the ability to go after one of the big free agents in 2019, maybe Manny Machado?
At what cost
Even though Friedman has ties to Tampa Bay, he will certainly not get a discount on Archer. As fellow site contributor, Mike Margy said, a higher level prospect will definitely need to be in the package for Archer. I don’t think Friedman would give up their top prospect in Alex Verdugo. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind giving up Joc Pederson for Archer. The Dodgers have valuable outfielders for days. No matter what, the Dodgers have plenty of pieces to make a deal happen, without giving up too much. Friedman likes to slow play his hand, not showing desperation, and that strategy hasn’t led to a bad deal yet. Another factor in this equation is when this deal gets done. I would prefer the deal happened now, but it could also happen at this summer’s trade deadline; either way, Archer still fills that important void.
Win now, and tomorrow
Trading for Chris Archer is a move to both win in 2018, and years beyond. The front office can only sit on all that farm talent for so long. Getting more firepower in the form of a righty on the mound is a necessity. Plus, who knows how long Kershaw’s back is going to hold up. Archer can step in and anchor the staff if necessary with his excellent fastball/slider combo.
With the durability Archer has shown in his track record, there is no better target for a pitching staff that has lacked stability in recent years. This is the best baseball and financial move the front office can make, the time to get it done is now. Dodger fans can see what a gem an east coast small market team has been hiding in Chris Archer. He is a bona fide stud and he needs to be toeing the rubber in Los Angeles for the Dodgers.