Could the Atlanta Braves have their perfect trade fit in Braves rumors favorite Chris Archer?
In late July, the only thing that might be hotter than the weather would be baseball message boards, set ablaze by countless trade rumors, proposals, and reactions.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is July 31st, and thus the in-season, silly season is in full effect.
Predictably, the Atlanta Braves are right in the mix of this hubbub. Entering Wednesday at just one game out in the National League East behind the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves are most certainly in contender-mode and seeking to pull the trigger on the right deals that could propel them to the postseason.
While the bullpen definitely figures to be an area of upgrade, and possibly the bench, the latest development in the trade deadline chatter has Atlanta focusing on a more prominent addition: a starting pitcher.
A starting pitcher with multiple years of team control.
And there’s one in particular that seems to fit the bill, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman:
"As the Rays and Tigers have had scouts following the Braves’ top Minor League prospects over the past couple of weeks, there’s certainly reason to wonder if Atlanta could use its talent-rich pipeline to land Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, who could be controlled through the 2021 season."
There’s definitely the need for a pitcher like Archer. The Braves have seen a few negative developments take place among their starting pitching rotation over the last couple of weeks.
Mike Foltynewicz has given up 4+ earned runs in his last three starts, Sean Newcomb had his two worst outings of the year right before the All-Star Break, and Julio Teheran continues to struggle mightily as he has for most of the year.
So what about Archer is appealing to Atlanta? A lot.
This is the easiest appeal to see the upgrade.
According to Fangraphs, since the beginning of the 2016 season, Chris Archer ranks 8th in the American League in total WAR among starting pitchers.
While some may write him off as a true “ace” because of his 4.09 ERA in that same timeframe (beginning of ’16 season), his peripheral stats give a clearer indication as to just how good he’s been.
Archer’s xFIP – a stat which focuses solely on what a pitcher has most control over and does not take into account outcomes that involve defense, such as strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed – ranks 7th in the AL (3.40) in the last 2.5 years.
He’s also regularly been a strikeout wizard, averaging better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in each of the last three seasons. Certainly a trait that would be valued in a playoff rotation.
All of these numbers, by the way, coming while pitching in the daunting American League East.
Much has been made of Atlanta’s lenience on its bullpen of late, as the young starters have struggled to consistently make it through 6 innings while a somewhat beleaguered bullpen has had to take on more of the load.
This is another area in which Archer would provide instant help for the Braves.
Over the last three full seasons, Archer has proven his dependability, totaling 212 innings in 2015, and 201 innings in both 2016 and 2017.
This is especially vital to a Braves team that could use a workhorse down the stretch in a tight playoff race, not to mention a franchise that is looking to have a pitcher to lead the rotation in the years to come as the influx of young pitchers continues to arrive to the big leagues. Which brings us to…
Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has made it clear that Atlanta is more interested in controllable talent as opposed to trading for players soon to reach free agency, per this discussion with the AJC’s Mark Bradley:
"We would prefer not to go after rentals unless the acquisition cost just makes so much sense for us. There’s a lot of pain that has gone into putting together this young talent. We’re not ready to throw that all away just because of one season."
Archer is a clear solution here, as well.
He’s under contractual control through the 2021 season on an extremely team-friendly deal, set to make $7.5 MM in 2019 and $8.25 MM in 2020 and 2021.
Those costs would be an absolute bargain for Atlanta, if he were to pitch to his track record. The Braves could get top-of-the-rotation performance for far below the cost that a free agent “ace” would demand.
Overall, it’s clear why Braves rumors are mentioning Archer, who would serve their needs in 2018 and beyond.