Exploring the Ramifications of a Potential Chris Archer Trade

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The San Diego Padres are reportedly flirting with the Tamp Bay Rays in regards to RHP Chris Archer. Let us explore the possibility of a deal and the ramifications of it to the San Diego Padres.

Recently rumors have been swirling that the Padres could be in the market for an ace-type pitcher via trade.

They are reported to have discussed Noah Syndergaard with the Mets, and Chris Archer with the Rays.

When we’re talking about a team that hasn’t shown any significant signs of being able to contend next season, the Padres are a somewhat surprising team to see interested in such high-profile pitchers. Nonetheless, the team is certainly interested in acquiring someone to lead their pitching staff, as Jon Morosi reported:

Say what you want about the rumors, or whether the Padres have any business going after a pitcher that would require giving up some significant prospects for. If the team is really going to pursue this kind of a trade, we’d best try and see for ourselves whether giving up a few prospects for Chris Archer is going to be worth it. Let’s come up with a realistic, theoretical scenario in which the Padres acquired Archer from the Rays. We’re going to use the report above as the primary source for our projection of the trade, so let’s assume the Padres are going to trade three prospects straight-up for Archer.

The three prospects mentioned by Morosi are Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, and Cal Quantrill. It sounds like two of them would probably have to be moved for the Rays to agree to a trade for Archer. Obviously we have no real clue of whom the Padres might trade if given the choice to give up two of the three players mentioned. So let’s just explore the most likely scenario based on the high asking price being rumored for Archer. Mejia and Urias are more highly touted than Quantrill, so let’s assume they’re the headliners in the deal. The third prospect included in the trade will be a player to be named later — Probably a rookie ball guy who has performed well and is just a good depth piece the Rays would want to finish off the deal.

Scenario: Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, and player to be named later in exchange for Chris Archer

In this situation, the Padres would be giving up at least two position players controllable for up to six years in the major leagues. Hopefully they’d be getting an ace in Chris Archer in return, though. The first step is to project the performances of Mejia and Urias during the first six years of their careers. Let’s turn to Chris Mitchell’s KATOH projection system on Fangraphs, who in February came out with a ranking of the top 100 baseball prospects. His list ranks prospects by their projected WAR totals during their first six seasons in the major leagues, which is exactly what we are trying to project! Take a look at how Mejia and Urias were ranked and projected:

Player Rank on List Projected WAR
Luis Urias 20 7.7
Francisco Mejia 34 6.7

According to the projections by Mitchell, the Padres would be trading 14.4 WAR combined between Mejia and Urias. They’d also be giving up a younger lower-level prospect, that has to be taken into account as well. Of course we also need to see how much value Chris Archer could put up for the Padres if they acquired him. If the Padres were to trade for him before he makes his next start, he’d probably make nine or ten starts for the team through the end of the season. More likely, he makes nine because the Rays will perhaps want to hold him until closer to the deadline, meaning he’d start another game for them.

Archer has been worth 1.7 WAR this season according to Fangraphs in his sixteen starts. Assuming he continues to pitch at the same level for nine more starts, he’d produce 0.9 WAR the rest of the season for San Diego. He will turn thirty on September 26th, so he’s not exactly in his prime as a pitcher anymore. Even with that in mind we’re going to be generous and say that working with Darren Balsley and no longer pitching in the AL East division will allow him to pitch at the same level as he enters his thirties. Take a look at how he would project to produce if he pitches like he has this season:

Season Age Projected WAR
2018 29 0.9
2019 30 2.6
2020 31 2.6
2021 32 2.6

He is only under contract through the 2021 season, so his projection only includes four seasons during which he’d be guaranteed to be playing for the Padres. What you’ll find though, is that Archer only projects to produce 8.7 WAR while he’s with San Diego. Considering that he’d be outproduced by the youngsters being given up for him by 5.7 WAR, it seems like this is the kind of a deal GM A.J. Preller should be reconsidering.

There are a lot of young talented prospects in the Padres’ system worth holding onto. Maybe a trade could be made in which less talented prospects were given up — That is the kind of a situation when Preller would do well to acquire an ace kind of pitcher. Yet if the asking price on a pitcher like Archer is this high, the Padres would do best to hold onto their prized youngsters. It’s nice to have a strong starting pitcher like Chris Archer, and that’s something nobody will deny. What isn’t so nice, is when you give up too much to get that flashy ‘ace.’ Doing so is not something the Padres should be interested in.

10 thoughts on “Exploring the Ramifications of a Potential Chris Archer Trade

  1. I’ve never understood what all the hype about Archer is. He is by all accounts a thoughtful and engaging personality but he is no kind of “ace-type pitcher.” As evidence, I would define an ace as a pitcher with whom you go into his start pretty confident he’s going to get your team a W — not a pitcher’s W but a team W. When you see an ace like Kershaw or Sale or Scherzer scheduled to start on a given day, don’t you feel like LAD or BOS or WAS have a better than average shot at winning that day? It’s quite simple (and simple to measure); over the course of a long season (and career) you simply expect an ace to lead his team to more team wins than any other pitcher on the staff. Let’s look at Archer’s team record: In 174 career starts (a hefty sample size), the Tampa Rays are 86-88 when Archer starts; when any other pitcher starts over the same time period, the Rays are 376-373. In other words, Archer has made no difference to a Tampa club that has won over 80 games only once during his six year career. I’m sure Archer has great stuff and neat peripherals and would be a great clubhouse presence but what he doesn’t have is a record as a difference maker, even for a middling club like the Rays.

  2. The Padres should have had a more solid pitching staff coming into this season. They caught a break with Tyson Ross, and Lucchesi and Lauer have been filling in admirably, though no one was really counting on those three in the offseason. Archer is okay, but not worth top prospects. The trick is to have a decent looking staff (on paper) going in to next season. Signing Ross for 1-2 more years would be the smarter move.

  3. I agree with Tommy T 100%. Archers contract is irrelevant. He is 30 years old and has been in the decline for the last three years. Making this trade now would mean the Padres do not have the patience to have a plan and actually follow through with it.

  4. The catcher and Cal sounds OK as we have a good solid catcher with others in waiting. Urias is going to be an elite hitter in the biggs … no question. I would hate to see SD loose out on him as this system and team has not had a TRUE hitter in some time ie. Tony G. They gave up on Rizzo and have been paying for it. As a retired coach at the D1 level I get angry almost every game that I watch at the undisciplined approach at the plate by these Padres. How long do we have to wait to FINALLY get someone that can hit the baseball?

  5. Archer will be 30 next year, and he is not merely declining, he had declined. He is not that good. For the past 3 years his ERA is north of 4. He has a total of 3.6 WAR over those THREE years. AND he is at the age where pitchers rapidly decline even more. Yet someone thought it would be a good idea to trade for him? AND to give up multiple top prospects? What does this mean for the mindset of Preller and the leadership of the Padres? What’s next? After the Mitchell/Headley debacle, and the embarrassing/nonsensical Gavlis trade, AND Preller’s folly of Hosmer, how much more damage will Preller do to the Padres? And let’s be realistic, the Padres are not going to be all that competitive next year, and maybe the year after that (e.g. it is unlikely they will make the playoffs, or go very far if they do). So a trade for the declining/over the hill pitcher will be for 1 or 2 years at best, while he is 32 or 33 years old. Who makes that kind of trade?

    1. I think the Padre Front Office was behind all the roster moves the year AJ came in. I don’t think the Hosmer signing can be hung on Preller, that is Fowler. Maybe Fowler is pushing AJ to get Archer as well, we will never know unless Fowler comes out and owns it. What we do know is that the Padre Farm System is what it is because of AJ Preller so your animus towards Preller is misguided. Preller may be one of the top young and hardest working GM’s in Baseball. I am not a seller on Preller, I am a buyer. Either Mejia or Urias is too much for Archer, I am ok with moving Quantril, but not the other two for Archer. Replace Urias with Ruiz. Quantril + Ruiz + Weathers for Archer. I am assuming Ruiz won’t beat out Urias when he is MLB ready.

      1. At what point does a GM get credit or blame? The GM is the GM, he is ultimately responsible for the moves made by the team. It seems many Preller adherents want to minimize/blame-shift his horrific moves (or at least cast some doubt on them, with no proof), all while giving him (EXTRA) credit for anything positive. If he was some how “hung” with Hosmer then he still should be blamed, any GM worth his salt would have absolutely refused to make moves so incredibly and blatantly bad as Hosmer, etc. Now he wants Archer?! He is an average-at-best pitcher who will soon be below average/bad pitcher in a year or two. He is not worth a prospect on the Padres’ top 20 or 30 prospects. Yet we hear that they might give up 2 of the top 5, plus? It is clear that no matter how bad Preller is he will still be defended, and praised. He could trade the top 15 prospects for a backup OF and there will still be some who will call him a genius.

        1. I think you are getting a little carried away with your suggestions. I am not a fan of getting Archer either, we need bats and Urias/Mejia are good hitters. I would be ok with trading Quantril, Reyes and Austin Allen (my gut tells me that this guy will hit very well in his MLB career). The other thing not said in this Archer trade is that he will take development innings away from Allen, Kennedy, Paddack and Nix. So our rotation would have both Richard and Archer sucking up innings that should be going to see if these young starters have what it takes. Luchessi and Lauer are both going to need at least another year. This Archer trade is one year too early.

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