On Sunday, we produced a list of the players most likely to populate the winter's trade rumors. Rays starter Chris Archer was among those named.
Here's what we wrote:
It's been only two days since the list's publication but, sure enough, Archer's name has surfaced in a trade rumor. What's more is that Archer isn't alone -- another Rays star, third baseman Evan Longoria, could be available too, if the grapevine is to be trusted:
One of the most important parts of the offseason is figuring out which rumors have legs and which do not. Sometimes that gets complicated. This is one of those times.
There's every reason to believe the Rays are listening on both Archer and Longoria. That's how they operate -- that's how they must operate, given their budget restrictions. There's every reason to believe many teams will be interested in each player, too.
The free-agent market is void of proven, reliable frontline starters like Archer. The starters who are available are going to cost considerably more than Archer, while producing considerably less. Remember, Archer is guaranteed less than $20 million over the next three seasons ... then has two club options in the ensuing years that -- and this is combined -- will pay him another $20 million. In simpler terms, Archer's next five seasons will cost less than $40 million. That's an incredible value for a pitcher who since 2014 has averaged 203 innings, a 110 ERA+, and a 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Longoria, meanwhile, is scheduled to make $94 million through the 2022 season, after which his employer will decide between a $5 million buyout and a $13 million club option. With free-agent prices climbing by the winter, he doesn't have to keep up his 2016 pace (when he homered 36 times and posted a 127 OPS+) to be worth that contract.
Still, there's a difference between listening and shopping, and that's where these rumors lose their bite.
Both players are going to draw interest because they're quality contributors on sub-market deals, but neither is likely to get traded because -- get this -- they're quality contributors on sub-market deals. Obviously there's a chance some team -- perhaps even the Braves -- offers a Shelby Miller-like package for Archer -- or offers to take on Longoria's contract in whole while sending some top-flight talent back. But shy of that, the Rays have no incentive to make a move just to make a move.
Archer and Longoria are key to the Rays' competitive aspirations (assuming the Rays have competitive aspirations) but there's more to it than that. Archer is a great ambassador for the team (and the sport), and Longoria is the franchise player -- to the extent that Tropicana Field houses a Ducky's, his sports bar chain.
Each player has greater value to the Rays, a notoriously budget-strapped team, than they would to a big-market team because of their contracts as well -- if only because the Rays have fewer opportunities to acquire affordable players of such talent.
So, are the Rays likely to trade Archer and/or Longoria this winter? Nope. In actuality, they're unlikely to trade either. The key words there though are "this winter." Archer is all but certain to get moved before his club options are exercised, and there's no telling if the Rays will pony up to pay Longoria as his salary and age continue their climb. For now, however, these rumors are more of a whisper of things to come down the road -- likely years down the road -- than a sign of an imminent deal.