The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros, and the return wasn’t that impressive. Did the trade for Cole set the market for Chris Archer? Could the Milwaukee Brewers add a legit ace for less than previously thought?
The Astros acquired Gerrit Cole in exchange for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin. The overwhelming response has been, “That’s it?” Cole came at a much lower cost than upper tier starters acquired via trade. Chris Archer is still a possibility. Could the minimal return for Cole really impact the market for Archer?
Are Archer and Cole that similar?
Yes and no. They are both starting pitchers that would fit into the top slot of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. Both are under 30, and both aren’t ridiculously expensive. They both throw ridiculously hard. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end.
Cole’s best season to date came in 2015. He posted a walk-rate and home run-rate that he hasn’t been able to achieve since. Cole managed a 5.5 WAR during that season, and he seems to have settled into a 2.5-3.5 WAR range. He looks more like a solid #2 starter who will get #1 starter money.
Cole’s contract for 2018 is only $6.75 million, but 2019 is his final year or arbitration.
Archer has struggled with home runs in recent seasons, but he’s managed three consecutive years of a K/9 over 10.00. Archer posted xFIP numbers more than half a point below his actual ERA in each of the last two seasons. He’s also topped 200 innings three years in a row. Archer is heading into his age 29 season, but there are zero signs that hes slowing down. He’s as capable and durable as top flight starters come.
Archer has a team-friendly deal that runs through 2019 with two option years.
What are the Rays asking for Archer?
The last update that was made public on Chris Archer came just after the Winter Meetings. Since then, the market has gone quiet. The Rays would clearly still expect top level talent for Archer
The market for Archer would heat up if all the top free agent starters were off the market, but it’s January 14th and none of them are signed.
If the off season market were an actual market, Archer’s price actually would come down after the Cole trade. The off season and the way teams trade don’t quite work that way. While the return on Cole was much lighter than expected, it doesn’t mean the Rays will actually seek less than what they believe is fair value for Archer. The Milwaukee Brewers will likely have to part with at least two top five prospects plus extras to secure Archer’s services. It’s not an unreasonable ask for an ace level starter, but it’s clear that the Brewers don’t feel they’re far enough along in the rebuild to chase a #1 starter. A deal for a pitcher like Archer will have to wait until either the next trade deadline or the next off season.