Washington Nationals: On the Chris Archer trail again

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Chris Archer
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Chris Archer /

The Washington Nationals remain interested in pitcher Chris Archer. With many teams talking, this time the Tampa Bay Rays might move him.

For the second time this winter, the Washington Nationals carry a genuine interest in Chris Archer.

The miserly Tampa Bay Rays are listening to offers for their ace pitcher and Washington reportedly is among those asking. What the Rays want is anyone’s guess, but you can assume it is prospects without major-league contracts.

Archer carries possibly the most team-friendly contract for a starter of his talent. Four years remain, including two team options, for a whopping total of $34.3 million. Max Scherzer, in 2019, is set to make $42 million.

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With Tampa trading their face of the franchise, Evan Longoria, earlier to the San Francisco Giants, the conclusion is they are choosing not to compete in the tough American League East. The perpetually cheap Rays carry other pitching trade chips in Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and closer Alex Colome. They know fire sale well.

Aside from the contract, Archer would fit well into the Nats rotation.

He is durable. The last four years, Archer topped 30 starts and 200 innings the last three. A two-time All-Star, he is a strikeout machine. In 2017 he fanned 249. Three seasons ago, in 2015, he whiffed 252 in 212 innings.

If there is a concern, he gives up home runs by the metric ton. Last year, 27 left the yard with 30 scoring runs in 2016. Archer’s ERA the last two years has hovered around 4.00. When you look at his ERA+, it is the league average of 101.

What he does well is throw strikes with control and limits his baserunners. Archer has yet to have a season where he allowed more hits than innings pitched. In 2017, he scattered 193 over 201. When you consider his 2.7 BB/9 last season, his 1.259 WHIP is decent.

A look at his fielding independent ERA suggests he is consistently unlucky. Last year, his 4.07 ERA was over a half-run higher than his 3.40 FIP. The last three seasons, his FIP runs around two- or three-tenths lower than his ERA.

If Tampa is serious about a deal, there are no shortage of suitors. Old friends of Washington, Texas and Minnesota, are contenders in need of starters. The Philadelphia Phillies would love Archer in their rotation before the massive free agent class next fall.

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Archer is not worth a Victor Robles or Juan Soto, but a second-tier package of prospects works. He would make a tremendous addition to the middle of a stacked rotation.