The best starting pitcher still available before the trade deadline has to be Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. With his team having a rather disappointing first half of the season, the Rays must put some serious consideration into making Price available via trade. Price, 28 has been rumored to be on the trade block before, most notably before the season started, but the Rays have yet to pull the trigger because they know they would need a package of young talent in return. The two sides tried to reach a long term deal during the 2012-2013 off-season, but a deal was never reached and Price has since come to terms with the financial limitations the Rays organization have being a small market team.
“Since 2012, (the Rays and I) both understood that for Tampa to continue the kind of success we’ve had over the past five or six years, this is the way they operate. I would love to stay there and for us to continue to be successful. But I don’t know if that’s a possibility.”
Now with the team sitting at 44-53, good for fourth place in the American League East, and with Price’s contract expiring at the end of next season, it might be the right time for both parties to come up with a trade solution that makes both sides happy. Below are three teams that I believe would be a good fit for Price while bringing the most in return for the former Cy Young winner.
One of the biggest surprise teams this season has been the Seattle Mariners. With the winter acquisition of second baseman Robinson Cano, the Mariners have had a great 2014 season and would benefit greatly from another arm to pair with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who both boast sub three ERA.
It has been reported by FOXsports.com’s Jon Morosi that Tampa Bay and Seattle are in discussions of sending both Price and second baseman Ben Zobrist to the Mariners. In exchange, the Rays would be looking to acquire the Mariners top pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, who debut last season and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five starts at the major league level. The 21-year old left-hander has been sidelined the past couple months with shoulder inflammation, but this is the type of young arm the Rays would want in return for Price. Additionally, if the team would be willing to let Zobrist go they would target a number of the Mariners young infielders including shortstops Brad Miller and Chris Taylor.
This deal would make sense for both teams because Seattle is ready to win now and the team would be one of the favorites to win the American League West going into next season. They could also afford to pay Price the $17 million- $20 million he expected to receive in arbitration next year, while still being able to lock up Ben Zobrist for the next few seasons, including the $7.5 million he will make in 2015. The Rays would get younger and free up some money to target a pitcher in the next couple of seasons after some of their young talent has developed.
You might be reading this and thinking I’m crazy for suggesting that the Cubs would major players for Price anytime soon, but hear out my reasoning before you weigh in. I never suggested that Price needs to be traded before the trade deadline, just that teams would be willing to deal for his services. The Rays are looking to get younger and the Cubs have the talent to make that happen.
Chicago has one, if not the best, farm system in all of baseball and they are full young power hitters at just about every position. The one department the Cubs seem to lack at is pitching and with the departure of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, Chicago is looking for a top of the rotation pitcher to bring fans back to Wrigley. The best part of my prediction is that Price has already shown an interest in playing for the North Siders:
“I’d love to win. I’d love somebody to have good players coming up to continue to win, like the Cubs. That’d probably be the coolest place to win a World Series, only because most people who are still breathing have not seen the Cubs win. I think anybody in this clubhouse would probably agree that would be the coolest place to win a World Series.”
With the acquisition of shortstop Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija trade to Oakland, the Cubs now have three of the top 100 shortstops in baseball and they already have an All-Star in Starlin Castro at that position, meaning they have flexibility in this potential trade. The Rays might also be interested in a player such as Dan Vogelbach, the Cubs power hitting first baseman, who is batting .274 this season for the Cubs single-A Daytona team. With the emergence of Anthony Rizzo in Chicago, the Cubs might be willing to deal Vogelbach to replace James Loney at first base in Tampa if they choose to go that route. There are a number of other prospects the Cubs may be willing to trade away, but my point is don’t sleep on the Cubbies getting a major free agent for very long.
Toronto Blue Jays
It might be a stretch to think the Rays would trade their best pitcher to a division rival, but Toronto has proven they are ready to win this season. They currently sit four games behind Baltimore for supremacy in the American League East and Price could put them over the hump to win the division for the first time since 1993.
The Blue Jays would have to part with two of their best pitching prospects in Aaron Sanchez and Alberto Tirado, but both pitchers are still raw talents that have issues with walks which could deter the Rays from both players. In order to make a deal with happen, the Blue Jays would likely have to give up a number of players they really don’t want to part with including right-handed pitcher Roberto Osuna, outfielder D.J Davis, or even one of their top rated pitchers Marcus Stroman.
Though it looks as if this trade is unlikely to happen, it is something the Blue Jays front office should strongly consider. They might set their farm system back a couple years, but for a team ready to win now David Price would come in and dominate for an organization who has not seen post-season success in over 20 years.
Other teams that could be interested in acquiring David Price would be the Los Angles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angles, and the St. Louis Cardinals, but all of these teams do not seem interested in trading away players from their big league rosters and do not seem to have to right talent at the minor league level to entice the Rays to make a trade; or at least right now. The only likely way that Price would end up with one of these teams would be during his free agency in the winter of 2015. If the Rays are going to lose Price, you better believe they are going to get something in return. If I had to make a prediction, I would say the Angels or Cardinals are the two front runners from this short list.
Best case scenario: Price stays in Tampa
Even though Price’s name has been thrown around all season long as a player the Rays would be willing to trade, it would be best for that organization and for the sport of baseball if he re-signs with the Rays either this off-season or sometime next year.
Price is now just entering his prime as a pitcher and even if he is made available after next year he will just be 30 years old. There is still a lot of baseball left in the tank.
If sports history has proven anything, especially in the wake of the “Big Three” in Miami, it’s that a league is better if all of the best players are not on one team, but rather spread out across the league. It makes for better completion, a better overall product, and it makes for bigger sporting markets. The Rays already have their star utility player in Evan Longoria, but having David Price on your team sells tickets and keeps fans coming back for more. In his seven years with the Rays, Price has a very impressive 80-46 record with a 3.20 ERA and over 1,000 strikeouts. For an organization that hasn’t had great sustainability in the past, Price is a beacon of hope for a franchise that often struggles to fill their stadium. They have a great manager in Joe Maddon and they have proven they can win in the past by reaching the World Series in Price’s rookie season.
The team has lost some of their best talent in the past, most notably pitchers James Shields and Matt Garza, along with big time hitters Carl Crawford and B.J Upton. This is precisely why they would be best suited to invest in their organizations future with Price now. A Cy Young pitcher does not come around often, especially on the free-agent market. They would certainly get a number of young prospects in return for Price’s services, but by keeping him they would be showing their commitment to their fan base as wanting to contend every season. Even as a Cubs fan, I hope that David Price stays in Tampa. He has built a name for himself with the organization and the fans remain loyal. If the Rays have shown us anything in the Joe Maddon era it’s that they can get hot during the second half of the regular season. My hope, and Rays fans all over Florida, is that this happens in 2014 and the organization proves to David Price that he should stay right at home in south Florida.