MLB: Let’s Get Chris Archer to the Milwaukee Brewers

Chris Archer could be the missing link for the Milwaukee Brewers

If, by any chance, you have spent the last few days hiking through a picturesque mountain range somewhere with no WiFi access, then you may have missed that Giancarlo Stanton plays for the New York Yankees now. You may have also missed that Shohei Ohtani chose to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and also has a UCL sprain but that’s not particularly relevant to this story.

What is relevant, is that the Yankees (who were good last year) are now really good and are trying to get better. So are the Boston Red Sox. Also relevant is that all other teams in the American League East are significantly less good and are therefore unlikely to have any realistic shot at a playoff birth for the next few years. That means that for teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, now might be a good time to sell off some shorter term assets and turn them into longer term ones (Yes Baltimore, it’s time). Luckily for Tampa Bay, the team has a lot of players on affordable contracts, who teams would give up a lot of value for in order to acquire their services. Chris Archer is one of those players, he’s really good, he’s cheap. We’ll talk about that later though.

On the other side of this story, the Milwaukee Brewers are on their way to getting good while most of the rest of the National League Central are trending in the other direction. The Brewers find themselves coming out on the other side of what appears to be a rather successful rebuild and the roster is chock full of young, interesting, talented yet unproven players. Add a couple of impact pieces and it’s not hard to see the Brewers as a contender for the foreseeable future. There is one thing they need though and that’s pitching.

Chris Archer is a pitcher and he’s good – funny how these things work right?

WHO IS CHRIS ARCHER?

So let’s take a second to talk about just how good Chris Archer is. To do this, let’s take a look at some 3 year averages for relevant statistics:

O-Swing% SwStr% K-BB% ERA fWAR FIP-
Chris Archer Rays 31.1% 12.8% 21.1% 3.77 13.0 81

That’s pretty good. Archer has managed to get hitters to swing and miss at an above average rate, posted strong strike out and walk rates, while doing a decent job at preventing runs in a hitter friendly park in the AL East. For context, let’s see how that ranks among qualified starters over that same time period.

O-Swing% SwStr% K-BB% ERA fWAR FIP-
47 8 9 41.5 8 16

Top 1/3, top 10, top 10, top 1/3, top 10, top 20. That’s Good. Meanwhile Archer is just 29 years old and is on one of the most team friendly contracts in the game. If you’re a visual person, then perhaps this chart might give you a better feel for how good Archer is:

That Orange dot towards the top-right, that’s Archer. At the extremes you have future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw in the very top right corner, in the bottom left you have Mike Pelfrey. Archer finds himself comfortably in the top 10 in this chart so I think we now have enough evidence to say he’s good.

But did I mention that Archer is also really cheap? Any team in possession of Archer’s services would find themselves controlling Archer through the end of the 2021 season. Allow me to show you what those years look like.

2018: $6.25M, 2019: $7.5M, 2020: $9M club option, 2021: $11M club option

For reference, the Colorado Rockies just signed Jake McGee, a talented yet oft injured left handed reliever at $9M a year for three years – Archer is owed just an extra $6M total and has an extra year of control. As we just established , Chris Archer is one of the best young starting pitchers in the game, Jake McGee is not. So Archer has a tonne of trade value and we can actually work out just how much that is, so let’s do that.

Steamer currently projects Archer as a 4.4 WAR pitcher next season which feels about right. He’s not due for any serious decline over the course of his contract so I don’t particularly feel the need to add an aging penalty. So for 4 seasons an acquiring team can expect something like 17.6 WAR barring some kind of serious injury. We also know that a ‘win’ is priced at something like $8M so if we just simply multiply that out we get Archer expected to provide $140M in value over the next 4 seasons. Subtract the amount owed to Archer over those seasons and Archer has something like $106M in Surplus Value. 

So Archer is a good pitcher with over $100M in surplus value on a team that may look to rebuild. Let’s leave that there and look at this from the Brewers point of view.

For the Brewers…

As we said earlier, the Brewers are a young talented team that is perhaps just a few impact pieces away from contending in 2018. They’re coming off an 86 win season in a year where they were not expected to contend. They currently have a potential average or better player penciled in at every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future with more talent still to come off the farm. They have a solid closer in Corey Knebel, Josh Hader looks like a multiple inning weapon in the pen (if they don’t give him another chance to start) and Jacob Barnes emerged as a solid set up man. But the rotation looks….. thin.

Jimmy Nelson enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 and looked like one of the best starters in the NL but will miss a decent amount of the 2018 season after tearing the labrum in his shoulder as a base runner in September. Torn labrums are ALWAYS bad for pitchers so the Brewers will have to face the possibility of losing their new-found ace for a significant amount of time. Behind that Chase Anderson put up a 3 win season as he continues to show he is a reliable rotation piece but after that the picture gets more shaky with Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter and Taylor Jungmann projected to fill out the rest of the rotation in 2018. That’s really not enough for a team with hopes of contending in the near future – I mean let’s be honest, this is the first time you’ve heard of most of those pitchers.

The Fit

So this is what we have. Chris Archer is good but his team, the Rays, may not be. The Brewers are good but need pitching and this is where it is a natural fit. The Brewers window for contention is probably something like the next 5 years, then they will probably start to lose these young players to free agency. Chris Archer could potentially be around for 4 years as an elite, while reasonably young and affordable starter. Archer’s contract is so friendly that even after acquiring Archer, the Brewers would still have room to add impact players to the payroll without feeling too much financial strain. The Brewers will need to add some more pieces, especially to the rotation, but adding a healthy Chris Archer to the Brewers rotation suddenly makes them a team to watch in the NL.

So then, what would be the cost of acquisition? We know that Archer has something like $100M in surplus value but the question is, what does that look like in terms of prospect value. Thanks to the people at The Point of Pittsburgh, we can arrive at a pretty good estimation and for Archer it looks something like a top 25 hitting prospect, a top 50 hitting prospect and a back end of the top 100 pitcher. That’s a lot, it would probably gut most team’s farm systems but while Milwaukee could probably stomach that they have another option available to them.

The Brewers currently have 6 outfielders competing for 3 spots, so they could reasonably move someone from their surplus of outfielders. One of those outfielders is Keon Broxton who, after a breakout 2016 season, struggled to the tune of 0.7 WAR in 2017. Broxton is a talented center fielder who, despite some problems with strikeouts just posted a 20/20 campaign as a 27 year old with 4 remaining years of team control. If we average out Broxton’s 2016 and 2017 campaigns then he looks like a 1.4 win ($30M) player. That goes a fair way towards that $100M target. So with $70M to play with the Brewers would probably have to include a top 50 hitter and a pitcher in the 75-100 range. The Brewers have both of those:

Brewers Get:

RHP Chris Archer

Rays Get:

CF Keon Broxton
OF Corey Ray
RHP Corbin Burns

Now there might have to be a few smaller pieces thrown around here and there to make both sides happy but this framework would make some deal of sense for both sides should the Rays seek to rebuild. They get a controllable Center Fielder with upside, one that could help bridge a rebuild or perhaps be further traded. They also get one of the top prospects from the 2016 draft (even if his status has soured some) and a 22 year old starter who just posted a 25% strikeout rate and 2.10 ERA in AA.

Meanwhile for Milwaukee, trading Broxton creates space for top prospect Lewis Brinson to play everyday in 2018, while they still have some depth in guys like Brett Phillips for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile they add 4 years of one of the cheapest, most talented starters in baseball – one that makes them legitimate contenders in 2018 and beyond.

Chris Archer is a great fit in Milwaukee, let’s make it happen.

The Author would also like to credit Eno Sarris at Fangraphs for the framework of this post.

 

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12 thoughts on “MLB: Let’s Get Chris Archer to the Milwaukee Brewers

  1. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Rays accept 4 years of Broxton as the centerpiece in a possible Archer trade. Kiermaier is their best player and their CF signed to a long term deal. You also have to question why the Rays trade away 4 years of Archer in return for a player with 4 years of control remaining. The same reasons to trade Archer are reasons they don’t need/want Broxton. I have to imagine the Rays would need to replace Broxton with Brinson in any potential Archer deal.

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    1. I think you’re right in that from the Rays point of view they will definitely start with Brinson . This is, at least in part, based on the Rays moving Kiermaer as well. If you move Archer then you should be moving him too. Also Corey Ray and Corbin Burnes are legitimate prospects in their own right.

      I think the appeal in Broxton for the Rays is that he (re)breaks out and you can on sell him.

      Happy New Year and thanks for reading

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      1. Your logic is flawed. The Rays have a surplus of pitching and can afford to lose Archer (for the right return). The Rays’ top pitching prospect (and top prospect overall) Brent Honeywell will graduate in 2018. Accordingly, the Rays can trade Archer without sacrificing (too much) years 2019 on. KK on the other hand is irreplaceable and he’s signed to a long term contract (ie: he’ll be with the team when the Rays’ best prospects are called up from their top 5 Farm system). As an aside, I personally think Corey Ray is highly overrated and I wouldn’t want him in a trade. Plus, the Rays already have 4 top prospects who are OFs, who will collectively fill the Rays’ outfield needs (along with KK of course) for many years into the future (ie: Corey Ray would be redundant and wouldn’t help the team on the field as well). I like Corbin Burnes, but he’s not a top prospect worthy of being a centerpiece for Archer.

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      2. Some solid points. I think the Rays really need to do more than just move Archer at this point. They could very well be the 4th team in the AL East and and a few spots out of the WC even with Archer. I really think they have to move the needle more than that if they want to be competitive in the near future and to me that would involve moving Kiermaer as well. I think you’re right that the Rays do have pitching depth but it’s certainly more back end types than anything and I’d include Honeywell in that too (he’s a #3 for me).

        I think your valuation of Corey Ray is fair and I’d probably agree with you. These rankings were pulled from Eric Longenhagen’s mid-season top 100 for consistency as there aren’t any rankings on our site yet. I’m sure he will be revised heavily on the next iteration on that list.

        Thanks!

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    2. Agreed. The Rays have the best defensive centerfielder in the game in KK (and one who’s offensive potential seems ready to be realized). Rays would have no interest in Broxton. Frankly, I don’t think the Brewers’ farm system matches up well for an Archer trade. You guys want Odorrizi instead?

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  2. Umm, yeah this is great trade for the Brewers, however a garbage return for a young, controllable top-flight starter. Rays would never agree to such a trade.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts. This is probably not the return I would be seeking for Archer either. Keep in mind this is based on a model described above.

      A lot of it depends on your valuation of Corey Ray. If you think he’s the prospect he was out of the draft then it feels about right. If you’re down on him then it’s definitely low

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  3. If they Rays pull the trigger on the complete teardown (which they should), i’d have to believe they want pre-MLB talent; not 25-man roster pieces.

    Brewers get Chris Archer

    Rays get Lewis Brinson, Mauricio Dubon, Keston Hiura and Phil Bickford/Carlos Herrera

    Archer is THE MAN available on the market right now (Fulmer has questions, Cole isn’t a #1 anymore, Stroman isn’t available yet) and if the Brew Crew aren’t going to offer something like the above, figure that someone else will offer the equivalent (Braves have a deep system, Yankees do as well, especially if they don’t land Cole…)

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    1. I agree with what you’re saying. I also think it’s worth noting that I don’t think the Rays can really afford a full Astros/Cubs style rebuild for financial reasons. Going full tear down and losing ~90 games a year probably isn’t feasible for them given attendance right etc. They’re probably better trying to rebuild on the fly Yankees style and some MLB pieces like Broxton might make sense.

      Happy New year

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  4. You missed Zach Davies in the Brewer rotation, and he’s solid. That doesn’t change the attractiveness of Archer for Brewer fans. However, David Stearns seems to enter trade and FA negotiations with a set ceiling for $$/assets, and he seemingly won’t budge from them. The Rays can afford to wait…if they don’t get what they want now, somebody will pony up at the deadline this season. As a Brewer fan I’d love to have him; as a realist I’d be very surprised if the Brewers are willing to give up what it will take. I think the Rays would find your offer inadequate.

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  5. Terrific article, well done. I love the fit as well but I’ve got to think that from TB’s side the ask is likely to be Brinson, + 1 of Ortiz/Ray and 1 more of your top 100 guys, or maybe 2 guys just off the top 100 but in the MIL top 10 to 12.
    Keep in mind, if the Yankees are willing to go Frazier, Adams for Cole, they’re very likely willing to add Sheffield to close the deal on Archer.
    Yeah, I know, sounds like an awful lot, but that’s the nature of these particular deals. The pain in TB of losing Chris Archer is going to have to be felt on the other side as well, as in the acquisition cost bringing its own version of “ouch!”.

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