It is apparent that the San Diego Padres want to speed up “the process” by acquiring a front-line starter at the MLB Trade Deadline.
Acquiring a top-end starter to headline the rotation is what rebuilding clubs have done to bolster their pitching, evidenced by the Chicago Cubs signing Jon Lester in 2014, the Kansas City Royals trading for Johnny Cueto in 2015, and the Houston Astros trading for Justin Verlander in 2017.
All of these moves are connected because those teams had completed the rebuilding process and were fighting for playoff contention. Said moves paid off as Cueto and Verlander led their respective teams to World Series victories the same year they were acquired, while Lester and the Cubs won a World Series in 2016.
These trades all have a common thread; each of the pitchers were nearing or past age 30. Cueto was 29 when he was traded, Verlander was 34, and Lester signed his deal with the Cubs after his age 30 season. In terms of the Cueto and Verlander trades, some very good prospects were given to make the trade work. Detroit ended up getting their second, eighth, and tenth-ranked prospects in the trade in Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers, and the prospect haul for Cueto, while flaming out, was still seen as quite the catch for the Cincinnati Reds.
This leads us back to the Padres and their current strategy.
They are seen as the heavy favorites to land Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer, and supposedly are willing to part with their top prospects in order to land him. Jon Morosi reports that, while the Padres have refused to include top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and MacKenize Gore, they are still willing to include “one or two of their next three top prospects”. This likely includes one of Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia, and/or Cal Quantrill.
This is a very big price tag to place on a pitcher who has seen his ERA creep up since 2015, his strikeout rates go down, as well as seeing a drop in overall velocity. He is also on the cusp of 30, but he may be getting a tad bit unlucky as seen by his .349 BABIP and a 3.62 FIP and xFIP.
Per @jonmorosi, #Padres among the teams interested in #Rays' Chris Archer and have refused to include Tatis Jr. or Gore in initial offers, but are believed to be willing to part with one or two of the next three prospects on their top 30 list: https://t.co/eosjpYq3sj pic.twitter.com/kFVaspN7aQ
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 25, 2018
A trade for Archer at this point of the process, however, is confusing. The Astros, Royals, and Cubs struck while they were primed for a postseason run, but the Padres aren’t close to the playoffs this season what with their 42-66 record and 18 games behind first place. So, why Archer and why now? Many around the league say that San Diego wants Archer to headline their rotation for the playoff run, but Archer is controlled only through 2021, and that is if his team exercises the club option on him. If they choose not to, Archer would be cut lose after the 2019 season, effectively eliminating him from the Padres’ playoff window when it comes.
If the Padres truly want to trade for a frontline “ace”, Chris Archer is not the pitcher to trade top-of-the-line prospects for. Instead, they should take their blue-chip prospects and go for the big splash by making a trade with the New York Mets for starter Noah “Thor” Syndergaard.
The Mets have put a similar price tag on Syndergaard as the Rays have on Archer, but where with Archer there is more risk at a high price, Syndergaard offers just as good, if not better production at the same price. The 25-year-old still has three years of arbitration remaining and won’t be a free agent until 2022, while he has the stuff to remain in the rotation long enough for a Padres playoff run.
Syndergaard has looked good this season, evidenced by a 2.89 ERA as well as a 2.59 FIP and 3.00 xFIP. His strikeout and walk ratios have remained constant with his career numbers as he carries a 10.00 K/9, 1.81 BB/9 and a 5.53 K/BB ratio. He has also been throwing strikes at a consistent rate with a healthy 26.4 K%.
The Mets have made it known that it will take a pretty penny to acquire the services of the All-Star and, if San Diego is willing to deal prospects like Urias and Mejia for Archer, it is only fair to assume they would do the same for Syndergaard. The Padres would hesitate to include Tatis and Gore, but would still have to part with one of Urias or Mejia just to get the conversation started. The Padres will most likely have to include a package deal that would also see a top-10 pitching prospect get traded as well. San Diego can send Quantrill and/or Chris Paddack to the Mets to fulfill the Mets’ desire for pitching.
It is a large package for one pitcher, but for a pitcher with the status of Syndergaard, it is well worth the price. Using prospects like Mejia or Urias to acquire Syndergaard instead of Archer is smarter not only for the short-term plan, but for the long-term plan as well.