It’s not news that the Cubs and Rays have had talks. They’ve had dialogue regarding several players in the past and the disparity in their markets, competitiveness, and talent levels makes them natural partners for a deal. The Cubs’ need for controllable pitching and the Rays’ wealth in that area means it’s impossible for them not to at least give a nod and maybe even a “call me” pantomime from across the room at various league functions.
So I guess it shouldn’t come as any kind of a shock that the two sides have actually talked about Chris Archer. A frequent guest on the Spiegel and Parkins Show (full interview available in Hour 3) on 670 The Score, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan joined them — as he does every Monday at 11am CT — to talk about the Cubs’ potential attempts to reclaim their former prospect and what it would take to land him.
“They’ve had discussions with the Rays in the past about Chris Archer and I think he makes the most sense in terms of the Cubs’ MO, going for cost controlled starting pitching,” Passan said. “But he’s going to cost Eloy Jimenez. And that’s gonna big the big question in Chicago over the next six weeks.
“Is it worth giving up Eloy Jimenez to make another run at it this year when you have a team that we’re well past the third of the season mark and they’re still a .500 team?”
That’s a pretty steep price, even for someone who’s as good and has as much potential as Archer, particularly when he’s earning very little, relatively speaking. Asking a king’s ransom makes total sense for an elite pitcher who can be controlled through 2021 for $34 million. But does he alone alleviate all of the Cubs’ issues right now and is Tampa Bay really motivated to move him right now?
The answer to both of those questions, of course, is “no.”
“I don’t think they’re gonna trade Jimenez for a rental,” Passan continued. “Remember, they paid mightily and handily for Aroldis Chapman last year. Gleyber Torres is going to be an All-Star shortstop and you don’t grow those things on trees. So they felt, though, that last year they were in the position where they got Aroldis Chapman, their chances of winning the World Series went up significantly. And as it turns out, they did win the World Series.” [People forget that.]
Thing is, Archer’s not a rental (despite the way the quote is presented, Passan did not indicate that he was). And given that the next two non-option years of his deal are only around $7 AAV, it’s not as though Archer’s blowing up the bottom line. Then he’s got team options for only $9 million and $11 million, so even in those dreaded post-30 seasons, he’s still earning less than half what a pitcher of his caliber is worth on the open market.
For the Cubs, then, this is a matter of immediate return on investment. Will they really be able to extract more value from such a deal if they do it now rather than in December? Or after next year? This isn’t nearly the same as the Aroldis Chapman deal, but that move depleted the farm system enough that they might not want to further empty their cupboards. Then again, they’ve already got all the bats they need in Chicago and have spoken publicly about dealing from position player depth to acquire pitching.
What it may come down to is the trash fire of a division in which the Cubs play, which allows them to remain in the race with a .500 record or run away and hide if they get healthy and just get decent performances from their starters.
“I think this is the week the season turns around for the Cubs,” Passan predicted. “They have 20 games between now and the All-Star break, I think they win 13 of them and go in six over [.500].”
Chris Archer could absolutely help the Cubs to cement the division and would be a big piece in another playoff run, but I’m not sure how much the Cubs feel they need him at this point. They aren’t in a position where their window is closing at the end of the season and they don’t need to pull out all the stops here. With the core together for several more years, they can be patient when it comes to these blockbuster-type deals.
On the other side of the equation, it’s not as though the Rays are stuck having to move Archer now lest they lose him for nothing. So they’re going to make a huge ask and if someone answers, cool.
Perhaps it’s my skepticism that Archer will really be moved at all in the next couple years or my belief that Jimenez could be a middle-of-the-order monster in the not-too-distant future. Actually, it’s more a matter of probably having to add on two or three prospects — and not some no-names, either — in addition to Jimenez that gives me pause. A trade between these teams does make sense at some point, but I just don’t see that point being this season.
It’s sure fun to talk about, though. I mean, Archer is like the golden goose when it comes to what the Cubs need: under 30, cheap, great stuff, cheap, awesome personality, cheap. Did I mention he’s not making a ton of money over the next four seasons and would give them all kinds of flexibility to address other rotation needs? Better watch out before I convince myself that this is a great deal and get my hopes up that it’ll happen. Which it won’t.
Unless it does.