Milwaukee Brewers: Finding A Blockbuster Trade With Tampa Bay, Part I

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 6: Pitcher Chris Archer
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 6: Pitcher Chris Archer /

The Milwaukee Brewers are on the search for a front-line starting pitcher. The Tampa Bay Rays could decide to put their veteran players on the trade block and begin a full rebuild. While that’s far from a sure thing, the possibility is intriguing.

Jon Heyman has reported that Tampa is listening on offers for Chris Archer and other stars. If they’re willing to listen, there’s no reason for Brewers GM David Stearns not to call. The Rays have resisted a rebuild, but playing in a tough AL East could force their hand.

The case for Chris Archer

Archer would be the perfect acquisition for the top of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. He’s thrown 200+ innings each of the past three seasons with at least 233 strikeouts every year. At first glance, the past two years weren’t all that successful. He posted a 4.02 and 4.07 ERA for the past two years, but his advanced stats show he performed better than that. His 3.40 FIP in 2017 suggests he still can pitch at the front of a rotation.

The 29-year old Archer is under control for the next four years at slightly more than $30 million. This is one of the most team-friendly contracts anywhere in baseball. Because his deal, and the overall quality of Archer’s ability, the return will be high. It will take a lot to convince Rays GM Erik Neander to move his best pitcher. However, a potential deal could look something like this.

The deal for Archer

Looking at the Cubs acquisition of Jose Quintana, trading for a young, controllable starter costs a top position prospect, top pitching prospect, and two organizational players. Both Quintana and Archer are about the same age and are of a similar quality. But Archer is controlled for one more season than Quintana. Because of that, and his less expensive contract, the Rays will demand more than the return for Quintana.

So instead it will take Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz, the Milwaukee Brewers top position and pitching prospects, along with Lucas Erceg. Erceg is the Brewers tenth rated prospect and will be required to complete this deal. He rose quickly through the Minor League system and appears ready for the big leagues soon.

This price is steep, no doubt about it. Giving up Brinson and Ortiz, two top 100 prospects, a solid bat at the hot corner, and a decent first baseman is almost too much for one pitcher. After all, Archer has posted two straight 4.00+ ERA seasons, regardless of other advanced statistics. But the Rays will put a high price on Archer and it will take an offer like this to get a deal done.

Why should the Brewers make this deal?

While it is a high price, it is one the Milwaukee Brewers can afford to pay. There’s currently no room in the outfield for Lewis Brinson. Even trading Keon Broxton wouldn’t fully solve the problem because Brett Phillips has earned the opportunity to start and splitting playing time isn’t good for either of them. Ortiz could be a solid #2 starter for years to come, but is still a year away from helping. GM David Stearns will know what he’s getting at the big league level with Archer. He won’t with Ortiz. Plus, the Brewers have guys like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta that can also fill in a rotation.

With the emergence of Travis Shaw, the need at the hot corner is no longer there. Erceg is the only worthwhile prospect the Brewers have at that position right now, but he isn’t needed anytime soon since Shaw is under control for the next four years. Barring a complete drop-off in production from Shaw, the Brewers are set for awhile. The Rays need a cost effective first baseman since they’re starting a rebuild in this scenario and Aguilar fits that bill.

Next: Is there a second deal for the Brewers and Rays?

It may be too high of a price for David Stearns, but this could be more around what it would take to pry Archer away from Tampa Bay.