Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

Rays starter Chris Archer pitches against the Tigers on July 9, 2018. (CHRIS URSO   |   Times)
Rays starter Chris Archer pitches against the Tigers on July 9, 2018. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published July 20, 2018|Updated July 20, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer wants the Rays to get going.

Trade more veterans. Bring back Willy Adames and bring up the next group of kids. Get on with getting better, and get back to reaching the postseason, as they did four times over six years that seems a long time ago.

"If I'm going to be here,'' Archer said before Thursday's workout at the Trop, "I want the process of not going to the playoffs to be expedited.''

Also, "I've seen the transition. I'm not saying I'm not happy, but I know that we are still transitioning. And the faster we can speed that up and get back to the 2008 through '13, '14 days, the better.''

Really, there's two points here.

One, should the Rays do what they can to accelerate the transition to the young core?

Should they go all-in on the youth movement with the idea that any experience the prospects get can only help, making them better and/or helping team officials decide if they are part of the future?

Probably so.

Two, should Archer continue to be part of that transition?

Should they take advantage of their perennially team-friendly contract terms to keep him around (just $27.5 million total for the next three seasons), to provide the innings that he does and share the experiences that he has had and be the leader that he thinks he can be?

Probably not.

Archer's time with the Rays and their time line for returning to contending no longer seem to mesh.

As confident as Rays officials are about winning with this young core, they don't know for sure if it will work, nor how long it will take, especially after losing three of their top young starters for the year in Brent Honeywell, Jose De Leon and Anthony Banda.

Archer, who was just establishing himself as a big-leaguer when the Rays last made the playoffs in 2013, wants to win now. Certainly sooner than later. And his patience for losing, even under the guise of development, is clearly growing short.

"I turn 30 in a couple months,'' Archer said. "I want to play the game for 10 more years, but there's nothing guaranteed in life. I want to experience winning.''

There have been times this year when it seems he has been frustrated. Questions have been raised if he has been less driven or is just being more cautious about his long-term health. More than one opposing team official watching him pitch has asked if he was looking to get traded.

Since the dominant 2015 first-half run (6-1, 1.88 over 10 starts) that propelled him to national prominence and AL All-Star status, Archer over his past 98 starts is 25-43, 4.15. That includes 3-4, 4.29 this season, around a disabled list stint for an abdominal strain.

Archer is bright and well-spoken, typically saying the right thing about his future in Tampa Bay, but there have been some mixed messages.

Even Thursday, when asked if he were running the Rays, what would he do with Chris Archer:

"If I'm an organization, I would want to keep me, but that's the thing, other organizations would like to have me, too,'' he said. "I don't know why (they'd trade me). I signed a contract that is extremely affordable, especially for what I provide. Outside of being out for six weeks, take away the win-loss and stuff like that, and I cover 200 innings. I can help influence any young pitcher and player, I like hanging out with our position players, too.

"At the same time, Manny Machado, five players just came back (to the Orioles from the Dodgers) for two months of service. I'm sure it's enticing because they could get more, but if I'm an organization, I would want to keep me.''

The Rays aren't going to get as much for Archer as they would have a couple of years ago, but that always has been the risk as they operate with a sliding scale.

And he's probably going to have to pitch well in the couple of starts he makes before the July 31 trade deadline just to generate a return the Rays would even consider.

But it just might be time, better for both sides to move on.

In talking Thursday, Archer was careful not to name names, but there are some obvious veterans whom the Rays should deal to clear space for other prospects, such as infielder/outfielder Kean Wong, relievers Ian Gibaut and Colin Poche, eventually outfielder Justin Williams and catcher Nick Ciuffo. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielder Carlos Gomez, pitchers Nathan Eovaldi (unless they would gamble he would reject a qualifying offer to get a draft pick) and Sergio Romo for sure, maybe DH C.J. Cron and, if the price is right, third baseman Matt Duffy. Catcher Wilson Ramos would have topped that list until straining his hamstring, reliever Chaz Roe might have been on it had he not needed knee surgery.

Despite their solid play over the past couple of months and surprising, give-them-lots-of-credit 49-47 record, the Rays aren't going anywhere this year. The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Astros are too good, and there are two teams and nine games between them and the second wild-card, for what little that would be worth.

But Archer, he should be going, somewhere.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.