By Jared Lankes
The Pirates model for remaining competitive long-term has been well-liked around the league. The results haven’t lied either as the Pirates went to the playoffs three straight years and have amongst the most wins in the entire league over the last four years. These results are very good, but I think most people agree that it is time to take the next step and go for it. And not the “mortgage the whole future for a short-term asset” type of go for it. A more smart kind of go for it.
The talk is rampant around Jose Quintana in Pirates land right now because of all the rumors, and rightfully so because he’d be a fantastic add. He’s got four years of control left at a cheap rate and is one of the best the American League has to offer. Because of this, it is easy to see why he would be a great and smart get for the Pirates as he’d cost a lot, but the value coming back would be enormous. I said before that the Pirates NEED Quintana. However, now I think there is one pitcher in the league that the Pirates NEED more. It’s a bolder move but still would be an incredibly smart move for the Pirates to make.
The guy I am talking about is Chris Archer. Archer is the very electric Rays right-handed ace capable of making hitters look silly and bringing an even empty Tropicana Field to its feet at any time. He is very highly-regarded and has had sustained success in his good amount of time in the MLB. He hit a minor bump in the road in 2016 but got back to his form the second half of the season, and there is no reason to think he won’t continue to be the guy he has been in 2013-2015 and the last half of 2016, if not better.
He, like Quintana, is signed to one of the more affordable deals in the league. Some may argue his deal is better than Quintana’s, which is a valid argument. He’s controlled for five more years at a rate that would almost make any team that would have him cry tears of joy.
What makes Archer such an attractive target goes beyond his age and contract though. It’s about what he could do with the Pirates that could make anyone salivate. He’s got all the tools that Ray Searage likes. A great fastball with an array of off-speed pitches, even if the control isn’t all there just yet. Despite some issues, Archer has been downright unfair to face at times. If Searage gets a hold of him, I think we could see a transformation of Archer into one of the best of the best in the NL, capable of dueling with the likes of the Kershaw’s, Bumgarner’s, Arrieta’s, and Syndergaard’s of the National League.
It’s also important to point out that nearly every pitcher that has moved out of the AL East has gotten better. Even the Pirates have been helped by this with guys like A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. There’s reasonable expectation to think that Archer would also benefit from leaving that division.
Now, lets go over the cost. It would be higher than that of Quintana, but I believe so much more worth it. Talks would likely need to start at Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, and Kevin Newman, which I’d be okay with. Then after that, I imagine one of two more pieces would go after that, maybe even three. A hefty cost, but I think the Pirates are deep enough in the farm where they can make this trade happen without mortgaging their entire future. For a long-term asset like Archer, I think these guys that combined maybe have a full season of MLB experience under their belt would be okay to deal away in this specific trade. Yes, the sting of it might hurt for a bit, but it would definitely pay off once Chris Archer headlines one of the best rotations the NL would have to offer for quite awhile, starting in 2017.
This is certainly the kind of trade Neal Huntington should make if he wants to take it to the next level while not deviating too far away from what the organization has been doing so well. They have a ton of their core around for three years or more and Austin Meadows, who would not be in the trade, will replace Andrew McCutchen at some point or another. The team could easily recoup some prospect loss by dealing McCutchen, Josh Harrison, or others or even trade Archer in 3-4 years when his value would still be very high. In my opinion, this is a move that needs to be made by the Pirates this offseason. There is no time like the present as the core is around for awhile, the farm system is as deep as it will ever be, and it is the perfect time to strike.