At 31-47 and 12 games out of first place in the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays seem to be completely out of the playoff picture. This has to be a surprise to some, but the injuries Joe Maddon’s squad has had to deal with this season has put them in a precarious position heading to the halfway mark of the 2014 regular season.
Do they chalk the season up to injuries and under-performing players or do they make the decision to sell of some of their best assets in order to continue building one of the best farm systems in baseball?
Common logic seems to suggest that a couple players could be had for the right price prior to the trade deadline towards the end of next month. Tampa Bay’s best asset at this point has to be former Cy Young award winner David Price, who is making $14 million this season and is primed for a big payday at some point in the not-so-distant future.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2014
Let’s take a look at some potential suitors for Price and come to a final prediction about where he might end up landing next month.
San Francisco Giants
Giants reportedly scouting David Price http://t.co/wPZqh98s4l
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) June 23, 2014
San Francisco has done a tremendous job building a viable contender throughout the years without having to give up the best of the best when it comes to its farm system. This might change next month, as the Giants are primed to be buyers on the trade market.
Some may indicate that adding another starter would be doubling down at a position of strength, but that’s too simplistic. Both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have struggled a great deal this season. They are a combined 6-11 with an ERA of over 4.80. That leaves ace Madison Bumgarner, veteran Tim Hundson and journeyman Ryan Vogelsong as the Giants top-three starters. Adding Price to the mix would give the Giants another ace, which would be huge against a powerful Los Angeles Dodgers lineup down the stretch.
Any potential deal would likely have to include top prospect Kyle Crick, who is San Francisco’s consensus top farmhand. Is that something San Francisco would be willing to do, especially with Price likely getting $20 million in arbitration during the winter?
St. Louis Cardinals
Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and Marlins among teams watching Rays ace David Price http://t.co/msHRXRdebW
— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) June 22, 2014
Talk about doubling down at a position of strength. Four of the Cardinals five regular starts boast ERA’s under four at this point. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha have combined for a 14-8 record with an 2.45 ERA. Adding Price to the mix would give St. Louis one of the best starting pitcher threesomes in all of MLB.
St. Louis is in second place in what promises to be a two-team race with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. While it has struggled a great deal at the plate, adding another starter to the mix could help elevate St. Louis past the Brewers.
Top Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras would have to likely be included in any deal with the Rays. In addition to that, we all know Tampa Bay would demend a top-tier pitcher in return. Prospects Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney would be two players the Rays may ask for in addition to Taveras. In any event, St. Louis has the ability to make this move, at least from a prospects standpoint.
Let’s assume for a second that Tampa Bay would avoid sending Price to another team in the AL East. That eliminates the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, both of whom need starting pitching, as candidates. We then move on to the team that seems to have unlimited carrots to Tampa Bay in terms of prospects and to Price as it relates to cash…
Los Angeles Dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) May 18, 2014
With Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu and Josh Beckett all having amazing seasons, the Dodgers don’t necessarily need to add to what is a strong rotation. But they have the ability to overtake the San Francisco Giants in the NL West and adding another ace-caliber pitcher would definitely go a long way. Without any financial restraints, the Dodgers are now considered favorites to land Price (via the Tampa Times).
Any potential deal with the Dodgers would likely have to include five-tool prospect Joc Pederson, who many outlets have as the Dodgers No. 1 farmhand. In addition to that, the Rays would likely ask for one or more of the following young pitchers: Zach Lee, Chris Withrow and Chris Anderson. Fortunately for Dodgers fans hoping they acquire Price, this is an organization that wouldn’t be looking at him as a one or two-year rental. They have the money on hand to dole out a large long-term contract.
Los Angeles Angels
#Rays scout in attendance at San Manuel Stadium, possibly finding trade bait that could be packaged in a David Price trade?
— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) June 24, 2014
Any potential blockbuster deal will be rumored to involve the Angels, who are going to need to find upgrades in the lineup and rotation in order to have a viable chance to compete with the Oakland Athletics in the AL West down the stretch. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards head a rotation that has been surprisingly good this season. Meanwhile, youngster Matt Shoemaker has been ridiculous over the course of his last two starts, giving up just three earned in 15.2 innings.
In looking at impact players the Angels could add, Price comes to mind before almost anyone else. Taking out of the equation that acquiring him would be doubling down at a position of strength, this seems to make some sense. In addition to having the money to spend on the former Cy Young winner, the Angels have the necessary assets Tampa Bay wants.
Despite Shoemaker’s success in the Majors, he wouldn’t be the top-end prospect Tampa Bay would ask for in a potential deal. Instead, the young righty would be part of a larger package that might include infielder Taylor Lindsey, reliever R.J. Alvarez and other young trade chips. Pure conjecture, but first baseman C.J. Cron has to be a no go for the Angels in any potential Price deal.
The Marlins are right in the thick of contention in the NL East nearly halfway though the season, which has to be surprising to both the organization and their rivals in the division. Despite losing Jose Fernandez with a UCL tear for the season, Miami’s starting rotation is performing extremely well right now. Henderson Alvarez leads the team with a 2.39 ERA while Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi have combined to go .500 with an ERA under 3.80. The Marlins still need to fill the hole left by Fernandez’s injury. That’s where Price comes into play.
Again looking at Marc Topkin’s report from the Tampa Times, Miami scouted Price on Friday and may very well be interested in his services. Miami has a deep farm system that is more than capable of providing the Rays a nice package in return for Price. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that Price would end up becoming a long-term solution in Tampa Bay.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 19, 2014
Oakland Athletics: They are definitely looking to add starting pitching help, but the issue here is that Bob Melvin’s squad doesn’t necessarily possess the trade chips to attract Tampa Bay. In addition to this, no one really believes the A’s are willing to pay a pitcher $20 million plus over the course of a long-term deal.
Texas Rangers: They are currently 11.5 games back in the AL West and have about half their 25-man roster out for the season. That latter part might be an exaggeration, but you get the point. It wouldn’t make too much sense for the Rangers to add a veteran at the cost of their farm system right now.
Atlanta Braves: It appears Atlanta is willing to head into the second half of the season without adding a top-tier starting pitcher. This might seem odd considering the injury issues it has faced, but this has been the in-season MO of the organization for some time now.
AL East Teams: It seems extremely unlikely that the Rays would trade Price to a division rival. Even if they do, the asking price would be so high that a potential deal wouldn’t make sense for AL East contenders. Unless the Yankees decide to open up their farm system for the Rays’ choosing, Price isn’t being traded within the division.
The Dodgers seem like a major favorite at this point in the process. As we mentioned above, they have the prospects to entice Tampa Bay and can afford to ink Price to a long-term deal. This trade makes too much sense not to happen.
Photo: Fox Sports