The Miami Marlins have their eyes set on a controllable starting pitcher, and they have their in-state rivals the Tampa Bay Rays as their ideal trade partner. The Rays are out of contention and may be willing to trade one of their starting pitchers, all of whom are young and under team control, if presented with the right offer. The Marlins are already even considering trading Adeiny Hechavarria, whom the team has always valued highly, in favor of a move for Chris Archer, the Rays’ ace-turned-passable starter.
However, Archer seems like the least likely of the three pitchers to be traded to the Fish, if any of them are dealt at all. Miami’s interest in those team-controlled arms will have to come with some decent backing in terms of player assets. All three starters are having subpar seasons, but all offer intriguing upside that may not be available under such control for trade around the league.
Archer threw 212 innings in 34 starts last year and was an ace-level pitcher, putting up a 3.23 ERA and 2.90 FIP good for a 5.3-win season according to FanGraphs. This continued a generally positive trend since he was promoted in 2013. Archer has the strikeout stuff that only Jose Fernandez can claim, as he owns a career strikeout rate of 24.5 percent.
The righty would not even be mentioned here, except that he is not looking like the ace he was last year. Archer has a 4.68 ERA and 4.35 FIP, and he has gone in this direction because he went from giving up no homers to giving up a lot of them. Along the way, his walk rate has also increased, indicating the possibility that his command of his pitches has dipped. The strikeouts, however, remain at an impressive 26.5 percent rate, and that makes both the Rays and other teams enticed at the possibility of a bounceback.
Archer, like another pitcher in this three-man group, signed an early contract extension that is team friendly for any acquiring ballclub. He is signed guaranteed through 2019 for just $18.5 million, a paltry sum even for a mid-rotation starter. In addition, he has two team option years worth $20 million more in total, meaning any acquiring club could be buying a five-year, $38.5 million pact for a guy who was an ace just one year ago. However, for that reason alone, the Rays seem unlikely to sell low on Archer, even if Miami sells them a lot of their paltry farm system.
Odorizzi has been on Miami’s radar since early in the trade rumor mill season. He along with Drew Pomeranz (recently traded to the Boston Red Sox) have been among the first names considered by Miami. Odorizzi also has a decent strikeout touch, as he has upped his rate to 22.5 percent this season to go with a modest 7.8 percent walk rate. However, he too is having his share of struggles, and his problems are also surrounding the home run. He has given up homers at a 13.1 percent rate of his fly balls, and he is a fly ball-heavy pitcher with a career fly rate of 44.2 percent.
Odorizzi’s fly ball habits may frighten Miami, who has already watched guys like Wei-Yin Chen and Dan Haren not gain benefit from playing within the larger confines of Marlins Park. They would probably prefer to go after a guy with longer than a season in terms of a good track record. Odorizzi has a league-average ERA and FIP essentially throughout his career. At the same time, however, the Marlins would probably be in some need for an average pitching performance coming from their ailing rotation.
Odorizzi’s team control is not locked in like the other two players in the Rays’ rotation of interest. He will be arbitration-eligible after this year, meaning he only has another three seasons on an acquiring team’s roster. This makes his cost likely slightly smaller than the team-friendly deals that were signed by these other pitchers, but it still does not deflate his value that much.
Moore may be the most likely candidate to be dealt. Like the two above, Moore has also struggled to return to form, and this has continued since his return from Tommy John surgery last year. Like the other two, Moore has run into a problem with the home run, as he is allowing a huge swath of long bombs and has a fly ball tendency to his pitching style. Tropicana Field is typically pretty friendly about homers, though not as much as Marlins Park. Once again, the thought is that maybe he would be able to recover from this.
The downside on Moore is that he has not looked the same since Tommy John surgery. In 2015 and 2016, Moore has made 31 starts and thrown 176 1/3 innings, but he has posted a 4.72 ERA and 4.68 FIP with only a modest 18.6 percent strikeout rate and 7.4 percent walk rate. Meanwhile, he has allowed 28 homers in that span, a near Chen-like home run rate. It is possible that this is the new norm for Moore.
Of course, Moore is a former top prospect who has the pedigree for success, though the injury is likely to have made that a moot point. All of this tends to decrease his cost to an acquiring team like Miami, and he may indeed be the cheapest option of the three Rays starters. Moore has a reasonable contract as well, as he has three team option years remaining from ultra-cheap initial contract signed in 2012. The options start at $7 million next year and climb up to a total of $26 million over three years, which is dirt-cheap for a starter with mid-rotation potential. Because these are options, Miami would not be committing to all of those years, and if Moore falters, they can simply cut ties with him without much in the way money lost.
Ultimately, the Fish acquiring any of these players is going to come down to the rate-limiting step: the team’s lack of prospect resources. Miami will not be able to trade much back to the Rays, so this will really depend on the price the Rays ask. Even in the case of Moore, I doubt Miami can pull off a deal.