Archer has most buzz ... but will he be dealt?

June 26th, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)Ted S. Warren/AP

With a trade market for starting pitchers termed "weak" by two executives, one name is consistently mentioned in virtually every conversation on the subject: Chris Archer.
The Rays right-hander is nearing a return from the disabled list, having been sidelined since early June with an abdominal strain. Archer may have a pedestrian 4.24 ERA this season, though he had been having a solid stretch when he landed on the DL, with a 2.47 ERA over a seven-start run beginning May 1. 
One general manager wonders why the Rays would be in a rush to move their pitcher, noting that the 29-year-old Archer is under control through 2021 at a team-friendly price of roughly $31 million.
"The days of a five- or six-year rebuild are over," the GM said. "Everyone tries to rebuild on the fly now; how many of us have a five-year leash? It makes more sense to try building around Archer than to trade him, unless you're worried he might get hurt."
Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom doesn't disagree. He understands why Tampa Bay constantly gets asked about Archer, but Bloom said it's no foregone conclusion that the starter gets dealt this summer.
"When you have a player of Chris' caliber, you're going to get calls and teams are going to be interested," Bloom said. "With what we're trying to build here and the core group that we're trying to add to, players like Chris are exactly the type of guy that we need more of. He's a guy that we can win with and can build around.
"We have to be open-minded to all possibilities, though, and when you have opportunities to add to the core group and to add to it in meaningful ways, we have to think about those opportunities. But in general, guys like Arch are exactly the type of guys that we want to bring in here."
It's hardly a surprise to hear Archer's name involved in trade rumors. The Rays have dealt several stars over the years, though rarely has Tampa Bay traded a name player without doing plenty of due diligence. Archer's name has surfaced in rumors for more than a year, so it's unlikely that this year's situation would impact him any differently.
"Tampa Bay is as adept as any club at gauging the value of their most valuable players -- while not straining the relations with those players," the executive said. "They're very attentive to seeing when the stock seems to be ebbing or flowing, and they make moves accordingly. They certainly seem to have been able to walk the line between engendering loyalty and camaraderie while also shopping their players to see what value they have. It's an interesting tightrope act that they have had."
Bloom acknowledges that fine line, taking pride in the way he and his fellow front-office members keep open lines of communication with players throughout the year.
"They know that we're going to be accessible to them, and we're going to be honest with them and as upfront as we possibly can be," Bloom said. "When we can't make iron-clad promises, we don't. They know that there is a business aspect to this and that when you perform, you're going to be popular with other teams and that might lead to some conversations. They can ask us questions and we're going to be straight shooters."
The Rays are in a tough position, trying to contend with a low payroll in a stacked American League East. Tampa Bay drew criticism for its offseason moves, which included trading away -- their longtime face of the franchise -- Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson and Brad Boxberger, leading many to believe that an Archer deal would be among the next moves
Even after dealing Alex Colome and to the Mariners last month -- a move that opened up when Seattle picked up about $11 million to spend following 's suspension -- the Rays aren't resigned to moving Archer (or anyone else) for certain, though it certainly can't be ruled out.
"Our top priority is to continue to build this sustainable, competitive core that we're working to build," Bloom said. "A lot of the pieces to that core are on the club already, and over the course of last year and this year, we've continued to integrate more guys into our Major League roster that we feel can be big parts of that core. As far as outside acquisitions are concerned, we have to look for and stay open to opportunities to bring more players in here who have a chance to be a part of that."