Chris ArcherAt times, the Rays can feel like a mess, a clay pot that is in a constant state of being molded. But if there is one thing we can lean back on these days, it is Chris Archer. He is one of the best personalities in sports, has amazing hair, and oh yeah, he just happens to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and under contract for six more years.

However, according to one report, it almost never happened.

Back in early, 2011, the Rays traded Matt Garza (along with Zac Rosscup and the Rays’ previous best personality, Fernando Perez) to the Chicago Cubs. In return, the Rays received Sam Fuld and four prospects, shortstopp Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer, and Archer.

At the time, Lee was considered the prize of the deal for the Rays while Archer was considered something of a project with control issues and that he seemed destined for the bullpen.

In fact, it turns out that Andrew Friedman had to be talked into taking Archer in the deal at all.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Friedman’s analytics team told him that pitcher Chris Carpenter (not that Chris Carpenter) was the better prospect.

If Andrew Friedman had gone with analytics over the advice of his top scout with the Rays, he would have wound up with failed prospect Chris Carpenter over Chris Archer. Friedman’s top scout at the time was Jeff McAvoy, who is now the Marlins scouting director. Friedman was going to make a deal with the Cubs, and analytics showed that Carpenter was a better prospect than Archer. McAvoy insisted that Archer would be the better choice in the long run.

Carpenter had just posted a 3.41 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 134.2 innings in double-A and triple-A. Meanwhile, Archer had a 2.34 ERA with 149 strikeouts in 142.1 innings in single-A and double-A. Still, there was something the analytics saw that told Friedman that Carpenter was the better pitcher.

In the end, scouting won out. Carpenter made just 18 appearances in the majors and none since the 2012 season. This past year he was in triple-A with the Reds as a reliever.

This is not to say that Friedman almost made a huge mistake or that analytics is a flawed system. Rather, it shows the genius of the Rays to not lean to heavily on one side or the other. This has always been the M.O. for the Rays. Even when Stuart Sternberg took over and introduced the Rays to a front office that was ahead of the curve in terms of advanced statistics, they still teamed Friedman with long-time baseball man Gerry Hunsicker, whose background was in more traditional scouting. The Rays will tell you that both analytics and tradition scouting reports are key. They use both and make the best decision based on all the information available no matter the source.

In this case, the scouting report got it right and the Rays got Archer.

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