Do the Dodgers need a starting pitcher?
The Dodgers have basically needed a starting pitcher since Zack Greinke left to play in Arizona. Although they did sign Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir in the offseason, it wasn’t what they needed to make a deep playoff run. This is because neither pitcher is a true #2 starter. Each of them has glimpses of being that type of pitcher but neither will be able to maintain that level of play for an entire season.
Additionally, the Dodgers pitching staff cannot seem to stay healthy. Both Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy missed all of last season (well McCarthy didn’t miss ALL of last season but you get the point) and Brett Anderson hasn’t pitched in a single game this season. Things looked to be turning around with McCarthy and Ryu both coming off of the disabled list, but the good news didn’t last long. Not only did Ryu end up right back on the disabled list a week later, Clayton Kershaw also ended up on the disabled list and is experiencing setbacks that have the potential to put him out for the season if he elects to undergo surgery.
If the Dodgers have any plans of making a deep playoff run and bringing home their first championship since 1988, they need to sign a front of the rotation type starting pitcher. If Kershaw is unable to return this season they may even need to sign multiple pitchers.
Is Chris Archer the answer?
Yesterday it was reported that there is a strong likelihood that the Dodgers will land Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer in a trade.
Exec from team that's been talking with the Rays says he sees such a good fit with Dodgers, places odds at "70 pct" Chris Archer lands in LA
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 21, 2016
So this begs the question, is Archer really the answer to the Dodgers rotation problems?
Although I do not think that acquiring Archer will solve all of the Dodgers problems, it is definitely the right place to start. In fact, Archer is the exact type of pitcher the Dodgers should be pursuing. This is because Archer is a low cost option that is under team control through at least 2019 and potentially through 2021. The Dodgers will certainly be parting with many top prospects in the next week or so if they expect to land a top of the rotation type pitcher. So if you are going to deplete the farm system, you should make sure it isn’t for a couple rental players.
Not only that, Archer is the type of pitcher who has shown flashes of brilliance and who could blossom into a true ace and perennial Cy Young candidate. Will that happen? Only time will tell, but few (if any) pitchers that are reportedly available are as low cost, under team control, and have as much upside as Archer does. As such, he should be one of the top priorities for the Dodgers heading into the trade deadline on August 1st.
How good is Chris Archer?
At 27-years-old, Chris Archer is entering only his 4th full season. Taking a look at his stats through those first 4 seasons and it becomes clear why teams like the Dodgers are so interested in him and why the Rays will likely have a huge asking price (covered more below).
In Archer’s first full season he finished with a 3.22 ERA in just over 128 innings pitched. He also finished with an impressive 101 strikeouts and only 38 walks. That translates to 2.65 strikeouts per walk allowed. This was good enough to land him in 3rd place for the rookie of the year voting behind only Wil Myers and Jose Iglesias.
Each year since then Archer has seen his innings pitched count go up to as many as 212 innings last season, yet his ERA and most other stats has stayed almost exactly the same each year. For example, Archer finished with a 3.33 ERA in his sophomore campaign and a 3.23 last season. Even his strikeouts to walk ratio has stayed roughly the same with Archer striking out 2.40 batters for every walk allowed in 2014 and an impressive 3.81 batters in 2016 when he struck out 252 batters.
This has all led to Archer earning first All-Star Game honors last season while also finishing in 5th place in the Cy Young award voting. His 2016 stats aren’t quite up to par with his past three seasons but expect that he will turn things around will end up right around his career average 3.51 ERA by the end of the season.
What is Chris Archer worth?
When determining what the Dodgers would have to give up to bring Chris Archer to Los Angeles, it is actually easier to start with who they would not be giving up. Even if the Dodgers are considering sending the farm to Tampa Bay for Archer, presumably there are a few players that are simply untouchable.
First, and most obviously, Corey Seager is not going anywhere. The Dodgers have held on to him for this long and have passed over many pitchers with better numbers than Archer to keep him. Seager has proven himself in the first half of the season and plays a position scarce with power. He will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
After Seager, it is pretty safe to say that Julio Urias will also not be involved. Everything that Seager is offensively, Urias has the potential to be defensively. At only 19-years-old, Urias has shown the maturity of a veteran and has already logged 40.1 innings in the big leagues. He has the potential to be the next Kershaw if somehow the Dodgers lose him to another team.
The only other player that might land in the untouchables list would be Jose De Leon. This one is not nearly as certain though as Seager or Urias. The 23-year-old is on the verge of breaking into the big leagues and could potentially have an immediate impact on the ailing starting rotation. If it weren’t for injuries, De Leon would likely already be a mainstay in the rotation. However, De Leon could end up being the center piece for the trade if the Rays were willing to include other players in the deal. Although it is unlikely the Dodgers would pull off such a blockbuster, there has been rumors that the Dodgers are also interested in and pursuing All Star third baseman Evan Longoria. This would certainly justify including a player like De Leon to pull it off.
After those three players, my guess is that anyone is fair game, including current major league players such as Yasiel Puig or even joc Pederson. Likely the Rays would be interested in a few lower tier prospects like Austin Barnes or Micah Johnson as well since both of them are blocked by current players and could make an immediate impact.
Will Chris Archer actually be headed to Los Angeles?
My gut here tells me that this trade is not going to happen. I don’t really have an explanation for it, that’s just my gut. However, on paper this trade makes sense and the Andrew Friedman’s prior relationship with Tampa Bay coupled with the deep Dodgers farm system could be all of the difference. If any team is going to pry Archer away from the Rays, it will be the Dodgers.