Dunlap: Pirates should make play for Tampa RHP

Time to add a piece for now and future

Colin Dunlap
July 23, 2018 - 2:02 pm

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

All I ask is that you try. An honest effort; put together a real package --- one that will be looked at as competitive and might just fetch you the reward. 
And, yeah, don't be afraid to part with prospects. High end prospects, even. That's the key part. Don't worry about seven years into the future so much when this fanbase is worried about the now. 

I'm talking to you Pirates. 

And I'm talking about Tampa Bay right-handed starter Chris Archer.

Go get him.

Or at least try like hell to go get him. People --- many of whom aren't going to games now --- are clamoring for a move such as this.

Show these people --- many of whom say they are mad as heck at the organization but I know watch just about every inning --- that you want to strike upon something that is at least a little bit hot. 

As play was set to start on Monday, the Pirates found themselves four games back of the Wild Card. The National League Central doesn't matter as that's too far gone. But about that Wild Card; Milwaukee, Atlanta, Arizona and Colorado are all ahead of the Pirates. It isn't likely these Bucs will wind up in the postseason, but it isn't insurmountable, either, as at 51-49 they could sneak their way in. Or, at the very least, play those meaningful games in September that general manager Neal Huntington so often speaks of. 

All that said, go get Chris Archer, the Tampa righty who has stumbled a bit this season with a 4.30 ERA, but pitches in that always-potent American League East. Even as such, at 29 years old, he's striking out 9.9 guys per nine innings and that number the three season prior was 11.1, 10.4 and 10.7. Simply put, he puts it by people. He's the kind of arm that would slide right in and into the top half of the Pirates rotation --- and there is absolutely, positively zero question about it. You want durable? Archer has worked more than 194 innings in each of the past four seasons. 

Those are all the baseball numbers, the ones that happen on the mound. As with anything Pirates related --- and it is just their reality --- a look into the financials are in order. Perhaps this is the most striking feature as to why Archer could fit in Pittsburgh. He's affordable and has controllable years. This season he is making $6.4 million and is signed through next season with two team options thereafter --- so essentially he's under your command through 2021 if you want him. 

And he's not making a ton. In 2019 he's due to make $7.6M, in 2020 it jumps to $9M and in 2021 he would make $11M. I'm still trying to figure out what the down part of making a heavy play for this guy would be. Let's say the Pirates would obtain Archer --- his contract with the team would run pretty much in lockstep with the ones Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Felipe Vasquez are under. These guys, management has deemed by virtue of their contracts, are pieces the Pirates are building around. On top of that, say Archer would arrive today, he'd fold in with a team that would have guys such as Josh Bell, Jamison Taillon, Elias Diaz, Colin Moran, Austin Meadows and Joe Musgrove maturing as his contract was progressing. Couldn't you see it where he was a veteran guy players like that could lean on? I know I could. 

And, again, this isn't a rental.

This isn't something for a few months.

Archer would be a piece who could benefit this organization for a few years, making the investment worth the potential payoff. 

To me, it's a matter of prospects the Pirates are willing to part with. As Archer comes relatively cheap in salary, the Rays won't let him get away easy. They will ask for some top end guys. Is now the time to shuttle Meadows if you have to? Is now when you entertain moving Mitch Keller or Ke'Bryan Hayes or  Kramer, Newman and/or Tucker? No question, Archer will command a pretty penny, but what he could potentially bring might put the Pirates over not just for the stretch run this season, but for the next three seasons thereafter. 

I think it's time for Neal Huntington to (and I'm not insinuating he won't) offer a big-time package for Archer. People right now don't want a rental or a middling guy or someone who is just a stop gap. People in this town want someone walking in that door who is a proven Major League talent who can immediately make a difference. They want a guy with a name and face they know --- that's the reality. It feels like the disconnect between the club and fanbase is as wide as it has been in my lifetime and a move like acquiring Archer might just serve to narrow that gap. 

There's no guarantee, even with a lights-out prospect package, that you'd land Archer's services. But it says here you should try like hell. You should make an offer Tampa must seriously consider.