Astros: Chris Archer, not Gerrit Cole, is the solution
The Astros trade rumors for another starting pitcher has already started.
With the Houston Astros posting the best record in baseball, all focus is on the short term with eyes on October. Depth is needed in the starting rotation and the Astros have the prospect depth to make a big deal before the trade deadline.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Astros might be involved in talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire right-handed ace Gerrit Cole. A former No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Cole is back to being the top-of-the-rotation guy the Pirates drafted. Through nine starts, he is posting a 2.84 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP, his lowest of his career. However, with a lack of run support, Cole only has two wins this season with the Pirates only winning four of his nine starts.
Cole would be a big name for the Astros to get, especially with him being under contract until 2019. However, there are some question marks. Cole throws his mid-nineties fastball 46.7 percent of the time, more than any other pitch in his arsenal. It seems to have been bringing him success, with opposing hitters only hitting .216 against him this year. However, this season, the 26-year-old has surrendered a career high 1.11 home runs per nine innings with 12.5 percent of all his fly balls leaving the park. This may not be as bad as current Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers, but with Cole leaving the National League and entering the American League in a very hitter friendly home ballpark, that may bring some trouble especially early on for the young right-hander.
The Astros may want to trade for an elite-starting pitcher that is not viewed as a rental for the 2017 postseason.
Cole would be a very expensive and maybe even risky option without any experience of pitching solely in the AL. There may be another pitcher in the AL East that the Astros may want to take a look at.
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With the Tampa Bay Rays at .500 and 4.5 games back in a very tough AL East, it may not be time for them to pull the plug yet. However, Chris Archer would be a nice pitcher for the Astros to inquire about.
At the surface, Archer’s numbers this season may not be that impressive. He has a 3.70 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP through nine starts, striking out 65 through 58.1 innings of work.
However, as you look deeper, Archer has been the ace that the Rays wanted him to be. Archer’s FIP is currently at a career low at 3.15. Although his ground ball percentage is lower than usual at 40.4 percent and his fly ball percentage is at a career high 39.7 percent, Archer’s home run to fly ball percentage is at 8.3 percent, his lowest since 2014.
Part of that is Archer’s two-pitch approach compared to Cole’s one.
The 28-year-old throws either a fastball or a slider 93.8 percent of the time. With those two pitches, he is striking out batters 26.9 percent of the time, averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings for the third straight season.
Like Cole, Archer is under contract until after the 2019 season, signing a six-year $25.5 million dollar deal with the Rays before the 2014 season. According to spotrac.com, Archer will be paid under $7.5 million dollars per season in 2018 and 2019
With a cheap contract and ace-like talent, the Astros may need to cough up a little more to get Archer than a pitcher like Cole or Jose Quintana. However, Archer has shown that he can pitch in the American League, taking on the offensive juggernauts of the AL East on a regular basis.
Next: Astros Countdown: Top Five Closest Astros Prospects
Archer has proven that he deserves a spot on a contender. Yes, it may be expensive, but Houston will reap the rewards both in the short term and in the long term.
***Stats provided by ESPN.com and FanGraphs***