Trade deadline season has its positives and negatives. On one hand, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year, because news is flowing constantly. Baseball games are being played as major decisions are being made in the upstairs offices. The increase in news, however, often brings out the negative side of the deadline. There are fake sources, fake twitter accounts, and horrid fake trade proposals. But perhaps the worst of all of these trade deadline downsides is the rampant greed amongst fans.
Chris Archer has been the subject of trade rumors for over a year now, despite the Rays having him under team control through 2021. His 2015 season was easily his best, but his 3.77 ERA paired with a 29.3 strikeout rate this year is nothing to scoff at. Every single team in the league would be happy to add him to their staff; he would immediately be one of the best starters in any single rotation. Teams like the Dodgers, Astros, and Yankees who are perceived as contenders now and in the next four seasons are even more suitable landing spots. Naturally, fans of those teams are the ones dreaming on the possibility of adding a pitcher like Archer to their roster.
Perhaps the willingness of the White Sox to depart with controlled starters like Chris Sale and Jose Quintana enhanced the thirst for adding a multi-year starting pitcher via trade. Or perhaps it was simply the questionable assumption that the Rays are bad, and they don’t need him. Chris Archer is good, and he could help good teams be even better for a few years to come. But the Rays refuse to let Archer slip through their fingers, even if he would bring back a group of prospects that would rival even the Sale deal this past winter. Some seem to have a problem with this.
The Rays currently sit at 53-50, residing just one game below the slot that would given them the chance to use Chris Archer to win the Wild Card game and three games back of the lead for the AL East. They’ve been trading for valuable contributors when the price is right. In an American League Wild Card race where teams well below .500 consider themselves in it, it’s a better position to be in than other teams already set on buying. The Twins, for example, are further back than Tampa Bay and just traded for Jaime Garcia to bolster their rotation (though that could change soon, hilariously). Tampa Bay has also made considerable improvements in their farm system, which is likely among at least the top ten in baseball at present, and depleted it very little to make their recent improvements. That minor league talent will likely rise to the big leagues before Archer’s departure. And yet, observers are still clamoring for the Rays to move Archer, with a sense of righteous indignation at the notion that Tampa Bay might have their own designs on him.
This problem is not one limited to the example of Archer. When the White Sox reportedly turned down an offer for Quintana in the winter, it was deemed foolish that they held onto their relatively young starting pitcher under multiple years of team control. It is this common notion — that smaller market teams on the cusp of being competitive should be more willing to trade their best players for prospects — that has unfortunately permeated a certain segment of the baseball world. Mike Trout deserves a better fate than being on the Angels, so he should be traded; Chris Archer will never win a championship with the Rays, so he should be traded. These are common takes around this time of year.
Surely some of this is natural. Being a fan of a team means wanting the best outcomes for them. That often requires adding some sort of talent at the trading deadline. The most attractive type of talent is players that can stick around for multiple seasons. Where things veer away from perfectly normal fandom is when fans go from desiring those players to feeling like they deserve those players on their roster. It’s not simply that a pitcher like Archer would be a nice add. Instead, the Rays are supposed to trade away their top talent when they’re not one of the very best teams in the game. It’s unfair that Tampa Bay wouldn’t realize the effect Archer would have elsewhere while they struggle to even reach the play-in game for the postseason.
It’s a disease that permeates every fanbase but becomes even more noticeable when trade season rolls around. And it’s a line of thinking that should cease to exist. That’s overly optimistic — it will never truly be washed from the brains of every zany fan — but the least that you or I can do is try to remember that each and every fanbase has a right to the players they have drafted, signed, or received through trades. They need not be privy to the desires of fans of competitive teams.
The Rays aren’t going to trade Chris Archer this season. That much seems to be true. It’s not likely that they’ll trade him in the near future, either. He means a great deal to their franchise, and they believe he can be part of the next good Rays team (which could even be this current one). Trading a player like that, regardless of the package of prospects heading their way, would be silly. So they will hold onto him, as fans and teams alike drool about the prospect of him bolstering their playoff rotations. Chris Archer is the pitcher that you want, but he’s also the one you can’t have. And that’s okay.