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The Rays are in no rush to trade David Price

Dec 21, 2013, 11:00 PM EDT

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After the Mariners signed second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract two weeks ago, many predicted that the next shoe to drop would be a trade with the Rays for David Price. But reports indicated that the Rays would only let go of the left-hander if the Mariners included Taijuan Walker in the deal, and talks stagnated. Since then, the Rays haven’t been in any rush to offload their ace.

Via Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

That could change — if not in the next couple of weeks that typically are quiet in baseball than in January — as teams, some that have talked to the Rays and some that maybe have not, reassess needs and options, perhaps with more desperation. Resolution of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka‘s status is a factor; if he isn’t available, that should increase the demand for Price (as well as remaining free agents Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana) because there would be one fewer frontline starter to be had.

But there is no deadline, no drop-dead date by which the Rays have to make a deal or tell Price he isn’t being traded.

Price is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. He earned just over $10 million in 2013 and will earn significant raises over each of the next two seasons, which may motivate the Rays to trade him sooner rather than later. The Rays currently have just under $40 million committed to ten players and have operated with an Opening Day payroll between $61-64 million over the last two years.

  1. raysfan1 - Dec 21, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Yes, and they also have an extra $27M to use this winter, same as every other team. They have a team that is ready to contend for the WS now. I do not believe they will trade Price unless the offer enhances their chances of making it to the WS in 2014–more than what they got for Shields. It only takes one desperate/deluded team front office, but I really think a trade next winter is more likely.

    • florida76 - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      The Rays haven’t been a serious WS contender since the miracle season of 2008, which also marked the last time they won a playoff series. Even with Price, the club will struggle to earn a wild card, and another early round exit from the playoffs is almost certain.

      Meanwhile, the Rays are working on a trifecta of last place in MLB attendance, the owner is upset, and Tropicana Field remains horrible. There’s been no real progress on a new facility, either.

      Some places aren’t designed to have sports franchises. Atlanta failed with the NHL, and St. Louis failed with the NBA. We’re getting close to the point with the Tampa Bay area and MLB.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        St. Louis did not fail with the NBA. Owner Ben Kerner was not a wealthy man and the Hawks were his only viable income. A shift to Atlanta was a financial necessity and did not reflect poorly on attendance in St. Louis, despite a lousy venue.

        Since 2008 the Rays have won 12 games less than the “always contending” New York Yankees, or 2 games a year. Their current team is perhaps their best to date. All teams are in the “struggle to be a wild card” situation in the parity-rich MLB. Outside the Dodgers, Cardinals, Rangers and Tigers, the Rays are the next most solid team, with fewer question marks than the Yanks, Sox, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Angels, A’s, Mariners, Braves, Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Giants.

        Yes, Tropicana is a pit, but support for the Lightning and Bucs, and a healthy TV viewership belie your death sentence.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

        I guess “serious WS contender” is subject to individual interpretation. I tend to be of the mindset that the playoffs are something of a crapshoot, which is why wild card teams have made to the WS and won–which in turn makes every playoff team “a serious WS contender.” Yep, the Rays have lost in the AL DS 3 of the last 4 years…which of course means they made it to the AL DS 3 of the last 4 years, and had to defeat the Indians in the wildcard game to do it this past season. Could they make the playoffs again and then an early exit? Sure. However, the point wasn’t a prediction of how they will do, it was stating my opinion that the Rays see themselves as having the potential to make a deep run.

        The point is what the Rays think they can do, not what you or I might think.

        As for the attendance, stadium, and ownership happiness–you list them separately, but they are all one thing. The stadium is dated, has little potential for upgrading, and is in a bad location. Mostly due to the location part of that, their attendance is admittedly not where they deserve it to be. (Keep in mind though that up until about 20 years ago 1.5 million spectators would not have been near the bottom in attendance.). Also keep in mind that, for reasons of wanting to demonstrate lack of sufficient support in order to gain leverage to get a new venue, the Rays only count actual paid attendance–other teams’ attendance figures include all tickets sold or distributed. The owners, of course, knew there was an iron clad lease in place when they bought the team, but like all owners will leverage their position to make the best deal they can. They won’t sell, regardless of any posturing, unless they stop making money–not happening–or somebody else makes an offer that outweighs their expected continued return on investment. I think they will eventually get a new stadium, on the Tampa side of the bay, but probably not for another 10 years or so, since they still have 15 years on their lease and thus not a whole lot of leverage.

        You mentioned Atlanta and the NHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a near-downtown Tampa venue. Do you know what their attendance is? #11 out of 30 teams. #8 last year too.

        Based on your handle, you should be well aware baseball, at all levels, is far more popular in FL than hockey will ever be, even when taking the snow birds into account. Put the Rays in a better location in the Tampa Bay Area, and their attendance will improve dramatically.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        I agree wholeheartedly, Raysfan. I like the Rays’ chances in 2014 way more than any other team in their division, and I think they do too, be it with or without Price. With that in mind, the Rays have all the leverage. Either a deal comes along that makes them as good or better in 2014, or they wait until 2015, when a better one will surface.

      • hittfamily - Dec 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

        I think this is the best team they have ever had, and they have previously won 96 and 97 games. They are stacked, top to bottom. They have a top 8-10 player at every position and a few top 5’s in Longo, Zobrist, Escobar, and Myers. Price and Cobb are both top 25 pitchers. Moore and Archer are both top 50’s. Hellickson is a wildcard, posting an ERA under 3, an ERA under 3.2, and an ERA over 5. Pretty good for a #5 though, especially with Odorizzi/Colome in case something goes wrong. Their bullpen is likely a top 5, with McGee, Peralta, Torres, Oviedo, and Bell (maybe Balfour too). They probably have baseball’s best bench too, in Sean Rodriguez (who a lot of teams would like to have start for them), Brandon Guyer, Matt Joyce, Jose Lobaton, and Jose Molina.

        This team literally has no weaknesses. They have condended for a WS every year but one since 2008, and the only reason they won’t be a favorite this year, is because they may not even make it out of a division with 4 teams legitimately gunning for a 90 win season. They are in the best shape they have ever been in though.

    • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Exactly, but there’s the rub.

      The Rays have to find a situation in which:

      1) The Rays believe the trade increases (or at least does not decrease) their chances of winning in 2014.

      2) The other team believes that the trade increases their chances of winning in 2014/2015.

      3) The other team has elite prospects to trade

      4) The other team needs starting pitching

      5) The other team has payroll room to pay about $32M for Price over the next 2 years.

      That is a really short list of possible trading partners. Teams can get most of the production they would get from price from a FA without giving up elite prospects.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        There is one more variable. A team that has a plethora of young players, some of which are blocked, or may have a tough time finding playing time, and fit into a trade scenario. St. Louis has no need for Price, although they could afford him. But guys like Ackley, Zunino and Franklin, are attractive, and a third team might have to come into play in order to make the deal work for all teams. I could see a scenario, where the Cards could be that team.

        I don’t know how they feel about Zunino, but talented catchers are rare, and the Red Bird brass might be enticed to move one of their many starters to secure him.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        I don’t know. Any scouting report I ever see on Zunino says that the hype doesn’t match the tools. No one thinks he’ll suck, but no one thinks he’s a future middle of the order bat with plus defense either. Huge holes in his swing, can’t handle good stuff, especially on the inner half.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

        Yeah, I hear similar things about Zunino. But the Cards need to develop catchers soon. Molina’s tutelage would be indispensable, and while Cruz is OK for now, he isn’t a long-term option. The heavy work load Molina employs will only shrink his playing days. A viable alternative, is needed ASAP, somebody to ease Yadi’s burden, who he can take under his wing, and secure a position that the Cards know is greatly under appreciated.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        I agree, but how much do you pay for that?

        The Cards moved Carson Kelly to catcher. He’s 19. Fantastic athlete, showing good progress at the plate. Lots of natural power. He’s really their best upside option in the minors…don’t think they have anyone else that profiles as an everyday catcher.

      • hittfamily - Dec 22, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        The team that acquires Price doesn’t just get Price for 2 years at half his free agent value. It also gets a 2016 first round draft pick. A few top prospects is what it will cost.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        And for most teams, that cost is going to be too high….because Tampa isn’t looking for top prospects, they are looking for guys that can contribute nearly as much as price will in 2014.

        Teams like Seattle are smart to keep prospects like Walker because odds are that 6 years of Walker is worth more than 2 years of Price.

      • yahmule - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        It is true Zunino struggles making contact with good breaking stuff. He’s also 23 years old. The Mariners rushed him when Jesus Montero turned out to be worse than even the lowest expectations. Also, Zunino was actually hitting fairly well after his callup. Then he broke his hamate bone and was basically helpless after that. It is true he needs to make better contact, but young catchers have a hell of a lot on their plate. Way too soon to give up on him.

      • paperlions - Dec 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM

        All very true. I am just talking about the tools scouts say they see, not the production that results from it. His swing is long, loads slowly, and he gets beat inside by decent fastballs. Of course he could close that hole, not sure if I trust the Seattle staff to be capable of that coaching.

        The point, I guess, is that some still hype him like he can be Buster Posey, which seems both unreasonable an unlikely….but he should be a solid everyday catcher, which is still very valuable.

  2. cackalackyank - Dec 21, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    Pencil Price in for 13-15 million of what is available. The Rays are not noted for taking low value for their wares, and that is not going to change at all with Price. Team control is a factor here of course. Given the package that the Rays are going to expect for him, getting only two years of control over him in return is going to chase away some suitors right off.

    • indaburg - Dec 22, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      If the potential trading partner is able to sign him to an extension giving the team control beyond two years, it makes Price much more attractive to potential suitors. That was something Price stated he was not willing to do with Seattle for some reason.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        But teams are getting the extension as part of the deal, any extension will be at full market value. He has no incentive to sign an extension unless it is a top of the market deal, and given the rate of apparent inflation, he’d be crazy to sign an extension that wasn’t both long and very costly. No matter what he says ahead of time, any team would be stupid to factor an extension into their valuation.

        I admit though, that this is a really weird time to evaluate trade markets. Teams obviously differ greatly in how they value prospects from different positions, different aspects of baseball, and payroll. The Cardinals tried to get value by trading young pitching but everyone was asking for way too much (maybe because they have so much available, it didn’t seem crazy to ask for a lot of it) compared to what they were offering….but then some of those same teams will go out and spend $15M/year on a back of the rotation starter in his 30s.

      • indaburg - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        It would indeed be costly to sign Price to an extension. That’s a very good point. At the same time, what I meant is that Price would then not be just a two year rental. He would be relatively inexpensive for the first two years (assuming he’s traded this off season), and then his cost would escalate. I think a team still needs to consider an extension as part of their valuation to determine if it’s just too costly an overall deal. If they’re giving up primo prospects for a two year rental, it doesn’t make any sense at all. However, if now he’s going to stick around for 7 or 8 years, maybe it’s a little more justifiable. He’s only 28 years old, left handed, career numbers ERA+ 122, WHIP 1.16, FIP 3.47, bWAR 18.6. Although for the record, I don’t know if Price is worth what the Rays are asking. He’s the beneficiary of pitching in a very pitcher friendly park, with the maestro of pitch framing Jose Molina as his catcher, and a superior defense. He’s a good pitcher, but the Rays as a team make him even better.

        I don’t think he’s going to be traded this off-season anyway, unless some GM out there has totally lost his mind or fallen under Friedman’s spell. I’d LOVE to trade with the Cardinals–you have some very good young inexpensive young players–but your team isn’t stupid.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        I’d love to have Price, but the price will be way too high in prospects and salary. While “relatively inexpensive is true”, he could get $15M and $20M in arbitration and that ain’t cheap. They also just don’t need Price. They have 3 top of the rotation arms already and a bunch of other guys already fighting for spots….I really think Martinez could be a stud in the rotation, his stuff is nasty and he’s fun as hell to watch. And after the guys already in the majors, there are a crap ton of other guys knocking on the door. Their current 3rd tier pitching prospects are comparable to many teams top tier pitching prospects. Every year they have multiple lower round picks come out of no where to be awesome (in the majors or minors), it has been crazy.

        I think the best way to sum up any potential Price deal is that teams do not trade players, they trade contracts. In trading for Price, you are only trading for 2 years of Price. Anything you get after that, you have to pay for on our own. Those 2 years will cost between $30-35M. There is marginal value left, but how much do you pay for that in terms of prospects?

        The answer is a lot less than the Rays would like to get in return.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        I guess one could argue that FA is a team’s only option like the prospect weak Yankees or Twins, but still it is hard to see why teams would prefer, expensive and old options with little upside optimism, than guys like Lynn, Lyons or Gast.

        This just in, those guys are going to cost you a lot more after the season starts than before, unless the Cards suffer a massive amount of injuries.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM

        Price doesn’t fit a Cards’ need, but as a third team, they might, be a willing partner, but like the Rays, they are pretty content with the status quo.

      • indaburg - Dec 22, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        Price doesn’t fill a need for the Cardinals. I simply covet some of your young players. The Cardinals do a great job developing talent.

      • cur68 - Dec 22, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        ‘burg’s got the hots for Matt Carpenter. If you said “Matt Carpenter in trade for a very good prospect, Joe Maddon, a case of wine, and a Pyrenees Sheep Dog” I think she might go for it.

      • spudchukar - Dec 22, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        ‘Burg has good taste.

  3. pastabelly - Dec 22, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Rent your own player for two years while your window is still open makes sense.

  4. rjfgotchi - Dec 22, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    David Price is a good buy for any team……be ware players wear down after years of being very competitive !!!

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