The Tampa Bay Rays don’t have to trade Chris Archer. If they do, they can demand the moon, the stars and a few spare celestial bodies.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are seeking an even bigger package for Archer than the one the Boston Red Sox sent to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Sale.

To refresh your memory, that package was headlined by Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball according to It also featured fireballer Michael Kopech (’s No. 30 prospect), plus outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe (now the White Sox’s No. 9 prospect) and Victor Diaz, another hard-throwing MiLB arm.

That’s eye-popping, but it’s the going rate for an ace-level starter in his prime with years of affordable control.

That describes Sale. It also describes Archer.

Archer, who turned 28 in September, is six months older than Sale. Sale has accumulated a 16.6 WAR between 2014 and 2016, compared to Archer’s 11.5, by FanGraphs‘ measure.

But while Sale is signed for $38 million over the next three seasons—including a pair of team options—Archer is locked in for just over $39 million for five seasons. Archer’s deal, like Sale’s, includes a pair of team optionsfor $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021.

Next season, he’s due to make a shade under $5 million. In today’s market, that’s not merely affordable, it’s damn close to highway robbery. Plus, the extra two years of control help make up for any disparity in Sale’s and Archer’s stats.

Here’s the part where we talk about Archer’s 2016 season, which was uneven. In fact, if you glance at his 9-19 record and 4.02 ERA, you could argue he was downright mediocre.

There’s more to it than that, however. Archer struck out 233 in 201.1 innings. His 3.41 xFIP suggested a degree of bad luck. His average fastball velocity of 94.3 mph was virtually identical to his career mark of 94.5.

Most encouragingly, he put up a 3.25 ERA after the All-Star break.

“I think he simplified some things and realized ultimately he had to do a better job of throwing more strikes,” Rays skipper Kevin Cash said, per Topkin. “Whether it’s fastball, slider or changeup, it’s getting it over the plate. A lot of that, once you show a lineup or the first couple hitters that you’re willing to throw strikes, you open up a lot of avenues to get them out.”

He’s not broken, in other words. We’re talking about a guy who made the All-Star team and finished fifth in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2015. A return to form isn’t merely possible—given Archer’s second-half rebound and the lack of health or velocity red flags, it’s probable.

We’ve established he’s a shiny prize worth mortgaging at least a portion of the farm. Who has the prospects, and the need, to blow Tampa Bay away?

The Atlanta Braves have been linked to Archer at least since early November, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi

It’s possible the Rays would demand shortstop Dansby Swanson,’s No. 4 prospect and close to an untouchable asset.

But Atlanta could build a strong offer around another highly rated middle infielder: Ozzie Albies, a 19-year-old switch-hitter and’s No. 12 prospect.

Albies hit .292 with 30 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A and has the tools and talent to match or even exceed Swanson’s ceiling.

To approximate what the Red Sox gave up for Sale, the Braves would likely have to part with two of their top pitching prospects. Like, say, southpaw Sean Newcomb (’s No. 47 prospect) and right-hander Ian Anderson (’s No. 77 prospect).

Toss in another lower-ranked chip with some upside, and you’re looking at an offer comparable to if not greater than the Sale bounty.

It would sting for Atlanta. No doubt fans who want to see the franchise rebuild with a homegrown foundation would balk.

As the Braves prepare to move into their new stadium in 2017, though, Archer would give them the franchise-defining stud they need. 

There are other potential matches. The Los Angeles Dodgers already re-signed Rich Hill to join Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda atop their rotation. But, well, insert the cliche about how you can never have too much pitching.

The Dodgers have a fertile farm headlined by top pitching prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon and first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger. Plus, Archer has connections to Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, from their days together in Tampa Bay.

Heck, the New York Yankees have the No. 1 farm system in baseball, according to Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter, and they need starting pitching. 

They appear committed to their youth movement and holding onto blue chips like outfielder Clint Frazier and shortstop Gleyber Torres. They also could be loath to trade top prospects within the division.

Then again, you never know. They’re the Yankees, after all.

The Rays are under no great pressure to move Archer now. They can hold out for a king’s ransom, and if they don’t get it, they can keep him at least until the trade deadline, when prospective buyers will be even more desperate.

Tampa Bay may choose to trade another starter, including Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted.

There are a lot of ways this could go, and many of them end with Archer remaining in central Florida for another half-season at least.

If and when the Rays let Archer go, it should be for a price that shifts the firmament. Recent bumps aside, he’s that kind of player.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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