Baseball

I talked earlier about the need for the White Sox to fortify the front end of their rotation earlier by adding Zack Wheeler via free agency. What if the Sox could accomplish the same thing without Rick Hahn having to spend nearly as much of Jerry Reinsdorf’s precious precious gold? I’m gonna propose something pretty wacky and radical, but it fits the Sox modus operandi perfectly, plus it gives Don Cooper his favorite thing in the world: a reclamation project.

Time to turn Chris Archer’s career around.

I know we here at FFUD talk a lot about pilfering from the Pirates stash of available players. Wes already did it with Starling Marte, I’m gonna propose taking Archer, and Adam has a plan to free Josh Bell from PNC Park that you’ll hear about tomorrow. The reason we’ve decided to raid the Pirates is twofold: They’re gonna rebuild again, and they have a history of being dumb. If Hahn can take advantage of both, he absolutely should.

Why Him?: Based solely on his stats from last season, one would think there really isn’t a good reason the Sox should be doing this. By any metric available, Archer had a terrible season, going 3-9 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP and a ginormous 4.19 BB/9. His FIP was a career-high 5.02 which suggests he earned every bit of that ERA. Taking that into account the Pirates would not be dealing from a position of strength in trade talks, but why would the Sox want him?

This is purely a buy-low scenario for Hahn and the Sox. Archer has been an excellent pitcher in the past, and has pretty nasty strikeout stuff when his accuracy doesn’t abandon him completely. He’s only two years removed from a 10-win, 200+ inning effort with the Rays on a pretty terrible team. He also struck out 249 batters that year, the third season in a row of him having 230+ strikeouts. He also had a tolerable 4.03 ERA, which his 3.40 FIP suggests was aided and abetted by bad D behind him and playing in what essentially is the tip of a concrete condom.

His velocity still sits at almost 95 MPH on his four seam fastball, so there hasn’t been any losses there. The Pirates tried to get him to use a two-seamer last season to predictably terrible results. Once he ditched it and went back to the four-seam, his results in August were much better, as he had a 3.00 ERA in four starts that month. He also struck out 27 batters in those 18 innings before he was lifted with shoulder issues in the 4th start.

This is also the perfect time for the Sox to make a play for him, as his contract jumps up to $9 million from the $6.25 that it was two seasons ago. For a team that (based on what they’ve said publicly) is looking to shed payroll and enter a full rebuild mode $9 million off the books for minor league talent would most likely be fairly attractive. In addition to that, Archer has a team option for $11 million next season with a $250K team buyout, so the Sox wouldn’t be saddled with a shitty contract if Cooper isn’t able to fix him.

Why Not Him?: Archer was shut down at the end of August with shoulder inflammation, which is never good for a pitcher. In addition, it was never discovered what actually caused the inflammation so there is the possibility that there is something structurally wrong with his shoulder that the doctors have not been able to find so far. Also, he did just get his skull caved in for the first four months of the season last year, so there’s a lot of inherent risk in making this move.

How Much Is This Free Resort Weekend?: Here’s where it gets fun, because it’s probably not going to take a ton to pry Archer away from the Pirates. His career worst year pretty much seals that. In addition, the fact that the new GM has a chance to flip a player that the guy who had the job before him gave way too much away for (Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow? Holy shit, that really WAS a dumb fucking move. No wonder the guy got fired). Everybody likes making the guy who had your job before you look like a moron, so he can trade Archer to the Sox for some middling prospects as a salary dump. Perhaps Blake Rutherford and Luis Gonzalez would be enough to wet the whistle of the new Bucs GM, whoever it ends up being.

This is a pretty out-there idea but it fits the way the Sox like to operate. If the dice roll comes up eleven, the Sox could end up with the kind of guy who is a solid #3 starter for them at a very controllable price (which Jerry loves). If they make the deal and Archer is still getting shelled they can cut bait and only be out of $250K next season, which I’m sure they’d just trade to the Rangers with some international bonus pool money anyways. Let’s get weird, people!

Everything Else

First thing to wake up to today:

Now, as most know, Taylor Hall has been a fascination of mine for a while, though that hardly makes me unique. And it would make sense that Hall might not want to sign an extension in New Jersey. If for no other reason, some players are just very curious to do the free agent tour, to see what all their options are, or hell, just to be courted by at least 2/3rds of the league and feel like the big dick. Fuck, why wouldn’t you? Oh right, injury or down performance or something. Still, if Hall were to go on the open market next summer, you could make the argument it would be an even bigger deal than when John Tavares did, because JT didn’t have a Hart on his resume.

Second, even with Jack Hughes coming to town, the Devils are at least two years from serious contention and possibly longer, and might not even be a playoff team next season. They were 26 points off the pace last season, have no defense to speak of really, and MacKenzie Blackwood may or may not be a goalie. You can see where Hall might not want to bet whatever’s left of his prime on that hunch.

Further ratcheting up the frenzy is that Hall’s cap number is just $6M this year, which is pretty manageable for anyone remotely desperate. Off the top of my head, teams around contention that would want and need Hall are the Penguins, Bruins, Panthers, Jackets, Canes, Flyers, Islanders, Stars, Blues, Predators, Flames, and I’m probably missing a few. Look, everyone needs Taylor Hall. Everyone could find a spot for him.

Oh, and New Jersey is just a shitty place to play. Let’s end the case there. It’s fucking New Jersey. I just want to pretend that Hall hates Springsteen as much as I do and has had enough. Let me have it.

Which brings us to the Hawks. There’s no question that they have a hole in the top six. Hall would actually be something of an odd fit in some ways. He’s not the prototypical left winger to maximize playing with Kane, because he also likes to have the puck and create his own space and shot. Not that the two of them couldn’t make it work, but he’s not the spot-up shooter than Top Cat is on the power play or Sharp was in his heyday or Panarin could turn into when need be. Which means you’d probably be better off playing Hall with Toews, except there’s no one really on the right side of that. Again, you could put Kane there and have an absolute doomsday of a top line with Toews doing more of the finding space thing, leaving Hall to create it, and then hammock Strome and Top Cat on the second line.

Both of these scenarios mean either flipping Saad to the right side, which he’s never really taken to, or moving him permanently to the third line, or involving him in this trade or another. Funny how Saad and Hall make the same amount of money, no?

You may think it doesn’t behoove the Hawks to go after what is essentially a rental, but I think it’s perfect. One, it keeps his trade value down. And this is the kind of player that you start the process of drafting Bowen Byram, and then packaging some combination of Boqvist, Mitchell, Beaudein, Jokiharju (maybe with Saad or Anisimov) to improve your team now. Second, it gives you flexibility next year and evaluation time this year. Perhaps Kubalik, Kahun, or Kurashev really pop this season, along with another 40 goals from Top Cat, and you thank Hall for his services while you commit his money to other players you think you can step up. Maybe the cap takes a bigger leap up. I don’t know, who cares, fuck you.

Yes, I realize that Hall isn’t a defenseman. But his cap hit isn’t so destructive for one season that you can’t find an additional upgrade there as well, whether or not the Hawks draft Byram and whether or not he then skips right to the NHL. Remember, Crawford’s number comes off the books next year too, and you might jettison Saad’s and/or Anisimov’s in the next year as well. There is flexibility for Hall and oh I don’t know…a certain #65 together for a season.

You can actually do this without forfeiting your future. The #3 pick allows you that. Your director of amateur scouting just came out and said that they’ll never get all these defensive prospects on the roster, so you know you have to make a move or two anyway. Play your cards right, and you should still have at least two of your four kids already in the system on the blue line, Byram/Turcotte and whatever else you pick up this draft.

You want to get back in the headlines? You want to vault yourself back into contention in a division that appears like it’s only going to get worse? Then grow a pair and make this move before everyone realizes Pagnotta is actually just a glorified bullhorn.