As the hot stove season heats up, the Washington Nationals are asking about Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer. A deal they can make happen.
The Washington Nationals are shopping for starting pitching. Well, let’s be honest, every team wants a shiny new ace for Christmas. Better to get you to purchase seasons tickets with.
Within Ken Rosenthal’s story on whether the Nats will try to snag Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox comes their desire to trade for Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays. On the surface, you wonder why. The 2016 season was not kind to him or the Rays.
Archer went 9-19 last season with an ERA of 4.02. Even by American League standards, those numbers are average. His Adjusted ERA+ was 101 in 2016, or one percent above average. Last year, he gave Tampa a great year as a third starter. Too bad, he is their ace.
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Won-loss records and ERA rarely tell a complete tale. Archer started 33 games last year, the third straight season he eclipsed 30. In 201.1 innings, he scattered 183 hits and 67 walks for a WHIP of 1.242. For a team that plays in front of crowds better suited for a bingo hall than baseball, those numbers are good.
Archer enters next season in the prime of his career at 28. Tampa—with a record of being frugal to a fault—is taking offers for his services. Seriously.
If the Rays cannot handle is unbelievably team-friendly six-years/$25.5 million total deal, then what can they afford? Yes, there are two team options at the end of his deal. If they want to move on from him as he ages, the winning offer gets Archer’s services for six years before he hits the open market.
Without an extension, the most expensive year in his contract is $11 million in 2021. Gio Gonzalez will make $12 million next season and is not guaranteed a rotation spot for the Nats. Why on earth is Tampa trying to move him?
Archer—if he goes—is not an ace for a pitching-rich club. The Washington Nationals have Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and a healthy Stephen Strasburg to fill the front end. Archer will thrive if the Nats can make the right offer.
Between Danny Espinosa, Gonzalez and any of the pitching prospects fighting for the fifth starter role next spring, you can say Washington can make a competitive offer. So do most of the top teams in baseball.
Remember, Tampa traded away Wil Myers before he reached arbitration. A team with great drafting instincts, the Rays do not try to keep their own players. Evan Longoria would go if they could get away with it.
If Washington feels they must address their starting rotation above everything else this winter, a whole other story, they could do a lot worse than Archer.
With his durability and drive, Archer could be a 15-18 game winner here every year.