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Should the Twins have tried to trade for Chris Archer?

Chris Archer is a good and relatively young pitcher working on a team-friendly contract. Should the Minnesota Twins have tried to get him in a trade?

Archer, 29, now pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates, after his previous employer traded him for 3 good young prospects. This spring, the Twins were rumored to be interested in Archer’s services and the only trade piece being written about over and over again on rumor mill websites was outfielder Max Kepler.

Given the return Tampa Bay got in the real deal, it’s pretty clear it would have taken more than Kepler to get it done.

The Pirates traded pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows plus a player to be named later. Reports surfaced Tuesday that the later-named player is actually a prospect you might have heard of: pitcher Shane Baz. The 19-year-old was Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2017 (No. 12 overall), and completes an impressive trade package for the former Rays ace.

So, to answer this question we’d have to find a Twins’ equivalent trade package. More on that in a moment.

In his career, Archer has a 3.70 ERA and 25.7% strikeout rate in more than 1,000 innings spread across 7 seasons. He likely wont get there this year, but for those into the 200-inning threshold for starting pitchers, Archer’s checked that box in each of the past 3 seasons.

He’s athletic and beneath-the-surface numbers have practically always shown that Archer has pitched better than his results. Maybe that’s a folly in the numbers or maybe he’s destined for a gambler’s run of great luck. In any case, Archer is one of those pitchers that would look good at the top of a lot of rotations. And if you’re one of the teams that would be lucky enough to have him slotted in at No. 2, then more power to you.

Can you imagine a 2019 starting rotation led by Archer and J.O. Berrios? The Twins would appear to be well-positioned on the mound, even if they didn’t ink a Clayton Kershaw in free agency. Here’s what the contract will pay him the rest of the way:

2019: $7.5 million
2020: $9 million (club option)
2021: $11 million (club option)

There ought to be surplus value in that deal for the team that’s paying the salary, and that’s especially handy for a contending club in need of pitching.

And that cuts at an important part of this question. What’s your window to win?

For the Twins, I believe that window is still open for 2019. Miguel Sano has rescued his career, according to the early signs since his return from Single-A baseball in southwest Florida. And though Byron Buxton’s season has been mostly lost due to injury, he’s back playing Triple-A baseball as of Tuesday and again has a hope of returning to the Majors. If those two guys are star players, it smooths over a lot of real or perceived problems with the rest of the 25-man roster. (The Indians still look to me like they’ll be a good team and the Wild Card race will probably be tough sledding in the American League for a while, but the point remains that the Twins should be more competitive next year than they are right now.)

A 30-year-old Archer would fit that “window” of contention, if you like the phrase.

That brings us to our final point.

At what cost?

Pitcher Tyler Glasnow
Outfielder Austin Meadows
Pitcher Shane Baz (19)

What’s the Twins’ prospect equivalent? I don’t have the depth of knowledge to come up with an exact equivalent in terms of future value. Some front offices might disagree on the relative worth of prospect X. Pretty much every front office also would own up to the fact that the best they can do is make an educated guess about a player’s future. So let’s just look at general terms to wrap this up.

For 3 1/3 years of the right to pay Chris Archer, the Rays got back: a pitcher who has reached the big leagues but remains young and well regarded; a young outfielder with star potential who is yet unproven; and a recent first-round draft pick who looks to like me like a pitcher with upside and volatility. Now, take out the names and just look at the descriptions.

Someone with a much deeper knowledge of this stuff would have to correct me here. But I look at that and I think it’s loosely comparable to a package of:

Fernando Romero
Max Kepler
Brusdar Graterol

Maybe that deal will work out for Pittsburgh (next year or beyond), but if that trade package that I outlined is even sort of close to what it would have taken to pry Archer from the Rays, I can’t say that I blame the Twins for sitting out of that action.

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