The Milwaukee Brewers were believed to be in the market for a starting pitcher even before today’s disappointing news regarding Brent Suter. The soft-tossing lefty’s 4.80 ERA was a little worse than league average, but Brent took the ball every fifth day, racking up the third-most innings on the club (101.1) while typically giving his team a chance to win on a start-to-start basis. With Suter set to miss the rest of the season with Tommy John surgery, the club’s depth has taken rather sizable hit.
Reports have indicated a wide-ranging search for possible trade targets by David Stearns and his staff, and one of the names that has emerged recently is someone that was connected to Milwaukee often during the past offseason. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Chris Archer is once again among the pitchers that Milwaukee is considering this summer. Rosenthal also reaffirms yesterday’s MASN report that the Brewers are among the teams pursuing Baltimore reliever Zach Britton.
In a separate post for The Athletic, Robert Murray dives further into the Archer-Milwaukee connection:
One option the Brewers are considering, sources tell The Athletic: Tampa Bay Rays right-handed pitcher Chris Archer.
Archer fits the mold of what the Brewers are looking for – only 29, signed cheaply through 2021 (earning $7.7 million in 2019, $9 million club option in 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout, and an $11 million club option in 2021 with a $250,000 buyout). He’d give the rotation credibility, stability and a legitimate ace at the head of their rotation, something they desperately need if they wish to contend with the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
Murray goes on to speculate that it would likely take one of Keston Hiura, Freddy Peralta, or Corbin Burnes as a headliner in order to entice Tampa Bay to make a deal for Archer, and he also notes that it was believed that the trio was considered almost untouchable in the Manny Machado trade talks. The fact that Machado is a rental is thought to have greatly influenced that philosophy, though, and it’s at least possible that Archer’s multiple years of affordable club control could change that thinking.
Archer has missed some time this season with an abdominal strain but is having another typical “Chris Archer”-type season - a roughly average ERA (4.30), but a much better FIP (3.50) across 90.0 innings. He’s still punching out a bunch of guys (9.9 K/9) but not quite as many as he did from 2015-17. His walk rate is right in line with his career average (2.9 BB/9), and he’s giving up less homers than he did the last two seasons (1.0 HR/9). He’s still pumping his four-seamer in there at an average of 95.3 MPH and his 13.5% swinging strike rate is a career best. Archer is allowing a career-worst 41.6% hard contact rate, however, somewhat explaining his high .347 BABIP against.
The arguments for or against Chris Archer haven’t meaningfully changed since he was first connected to the Brewers last winter. It’s quite possible that Archer’s middling ERAs would look a lot better with a move from Tampa Bay (+4 team Defensive Runs Saved) to Milwaukee (+85 team Defensive Runs Saved). That said, this is a pitcher that posted earned run averages of 3.22, 3.33, and 3.23 in consecutive seasons from 2013-15 and has a career 3.69 ERA/3.46 FIP in over 1,000 innings. Regardless of what starter you want to number him as, he would be an upgrade to Milwaukee’s current rotation group and arguably has a higher upside than anyone presently on the staff. And hey, maybe Archer could be the next Derek Johnson student that adopts the splitter into his repertoire.
It’s unclear whether Milwaukee’s offer has changed much from what it was over the winter, or if Tampa Bay’s high asking price has dropped. With Archer’s three remaining years of contractual control, the Rays could very well wait to trade him if they don’t find an offer they like. He is about to turn 30, though, so Tampa Bay may prefer to deal him sooner rather than later.
Murray also suggested that Zack Wheeler of the Mets could be a fit with the Brewers, but couldn’t provide a specific link between the two clubs other than that Milwaukee was interested in Wheeler in 2015. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports also speculated that the Brewers could be a good spot for Sonny Gray if the Yankees trade him, due to their interest last season and the presence of Derek Johnson.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs