Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. The Astros are the head full of hair and Chris Archer is the shampoo. I know, what a weird way to express the near-annual rumor.
Looking back, an Astros‘ offseason wouldn’t be complete in the past few years without a Chris Archer rumor or two. It has become a rite of passage here at CTH to write about it at least once an offseason since I’ve started.
Anyway, the rumor mill begins anew in the 2017-18 offseason.
The fit is quite obvious between the Astros and Archer.
For one, Archer’s contract is absolutely team-friendly. The Tampa Bay Ray ace is owed $6.2 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019 in the last two guaranteed years of his contract. Then there is the good possibility of the two teams options being exercised in 2020 and 2021 on Archer’s contract. These two team options, if exercised, would pay the right-handed pitcher $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021. Also, there is a $1.8 million buyout if a team doesn’t exercise the 2020 option. There is no such buyout for 2021 per Fangraphs.
In the age of renewed emphasis on the bullpen, Archer has been one of the most dependable starting pitchers in baseball.
The 29-year old has thrown at least 194.2 innings since 2014 and at least 200 innings since 2015. In 2017, Archer finished eleventh in total innings thrown by a starting pitcher. The only pitcher on the Astros’ staff who threw more innings than Archer was Justin Verlander — 206 innings pitched — who spent the majority of the 2017 season with the Detroit Tigers. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, despite their talent, have had injury issues the past two seasons which have limited their overall innings thrown.
In terms of actual results, Archer hasn’t quite regained the luster that he had in 2014 and 2015. His ERA the past two seasons — 2016 and 2017 — has hovered in the low-4.00’s. However, his FIP — 3.81 and 3.40 — have looked solid in the past two seasons. And Archer’s fWAR has been quietly good — 3.2 and 4.6 — in the same time period. If you go one step further and examine his xFIP — 3.41 and 3.35 — you will be even further encouraged. The velocity of Archer’s pitches in 2017 has remain constant with his career readings. There are no red flags at this time.
Archer would be the an ideal pitcher for any team to invest in.
The ability to throw plenty of quality innings is extremely coveted in baseball, regardless of the era. And multiple teams recognize that truth. Per Topkin’s article, the Astros have joined the following teams in expressing “various degrees” of interest in Archer: the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, and Minnesota Twins. In other words, the competition will be fierce to acquire the Rays’ ace.
The Astros ought to acquire Archer if the front office feels the price is right. Unfortunately, the price is probably not right if either Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley are included in any negotiation for Archer. Houston understandably feels optimistic about their potential. And, no, it isn’t prospect hoarding when a team expresses reluctance to trade prospects with the potential that Tucker and Whitley possess. And the Rays have every right to demand any prospect they feel like would be proper compensation for Archer.
Regardless, the team that acquires Archer likely will overpay based on the contract and past performance. And you should expect that. The Steamer Projections on Fangraphs currently have Archer producing another season in 2018 like he has in recent years. Starting pitchers with that kind of profile who are available are not easily obtained from other clubs. There is no doubt that Archer would fill a short- and long-term need for the Astros in the starting rotation. The price, though, will likely keep Houston from expressing anything more than lukewarm interest.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**