Sep 10, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) reacts as he walks back to the dugout after he after he gave up 2 runs during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How High Will the Price Go for David Price?

David Price was the Rays’ highest paid player in 2013 and he’s only going to get more expensive next year. As a Super Two arbitration-eligible player in 2013, Price settled for a $10.1125 million contract to avoid. As part of the deal, Price deferred $4 million of his 2013 contract to 2014. Add to that an anticipated $5-6 million increase through the arbitration process this year and Price’s 2014 contract hits around $20 million, which would be the largest single-season salary in Rays history by a large margin. That gives the Rays three choices: pay the money, kick the salary can down the road, or trade Price. Given the Rays past baseball business model, the answer seems obvious: sadly, the Rays must trade Price.

Now that the Rays have made this decision, they have to find a trading partner–not an easy task. Anyone who wants to trade for Price will want to lock him up. Nobody is going to meet the Rays prospect demand for a two-year rental. Locking him up probably means a Justin Verlander-type 7-year, $180 million deal . Do the math and that’s about $25 million a year. There are maybe a dozen teams that could afford that kind of money for a player who takes the field once every five days. Add to this issue that the Rays are probably loath to deal Price to an AL East team and it’s an even shorter list.

Once you find teams that want to deal, they need to have the prospects the Rays want and they will be be willing to give up. That thins the list out even more. The Rays trading model has been to get one or two major league ready prospects and two or three A-level prospects with a lot of upside. Get out your Baseball America Prospect Handbook and try and find big market teams with that level of prospects. There are not many.

However, deals can be made. Two teams do come to mind are the Rangers and the Dodgers. Nolan Ryan would love to have David Price and solidfy their rotation. So lets make a deal. The Rangers could offer infielder Jurickson Profar, who was their top prospect the last couple of years and remains a high-upside player. We know the Rays need a catcher, and acquiring a player like the Rangers’ current #1 prospect, Jorge Alfaro, would be extremely attractive. Should the Rangers offer a package of say those two and a pitcher like Cody Buckel, who was a highly-touted prospect until running into control issues this year, and that might be enough to faciliate a deal.

The other team that comes to mind is the Dodgers. They have more money than they know what to do with and the thought of adding Price to Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu is scary for the rest of baseball. Not known as a team with a deep minor league system, how could the Dodgers go after Price? The interesting thing is going to be their outfield situation. The Dodgers are stuck with four players for three spots in Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Would they consider trading one of them in a Price trade? Would they consider something like a Price for Puig straight-up deal? Would they be willing to send money to the Rays and a prospect or two to the Rays to go along with Crawford or Ethier? Both of those possiblities sound crazy, but the Dodgers are expected to be the most aggressive team for Price according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Dodgers do have some strong prospects as well, with players such as infielder Corey Seager and right-hander Zach Lee being prospects who could catch the Rays’ eye. But with the Dodgers unlikely to net Price with prospects alone, will they be aggressive enough to package one of their outfielders to make a trade happen?

The last option, the Cardinals, have the prospects and young major leaguers to make a trade happen. You can almost imagine the Rays licking their chops at the possibility of acquiring a pitcher like Michael Wacha or Lance Lynn. Like the Rays, however, they like their young pitching, and while they budget is much bigger than Tampa Bay’s, they don’t like big contracts either. With the Cardinals not looking like a real option, the competition will likely come down to the Rangers and Dodgers.

As much as I would like to see Price in the National league, you have to like the Rangers’ deal better even if the Dodgers do make a crazy offer. Profar could plug in a second base with Zobrist moving to the outfield, Alfaro could be another candidate for catcher of the future, and Buckel is exactly the type of challenge the Rays love taking on. Meanwhile, acquiring an aging outfielder isn’t exactly what the Rays have in mind for a Price trade. A Puig offer might be more interesting, but he might be a head case and he isn’t all that cheap himself the next five years. At any rate, the man who really has to make this happen is Andrew Friedman and we all know he is up to the challenge.

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Tags: David Price Jurickson Profar Los Angeles Dodgers Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers Yasiel Puig

  • Jason Nereim

    I hope the Cardinals are interested. A trade involving Adams, Wacha, and Wong would be awesome.

    • david egbert

      As I said, any deal depends upon the teams overall payroll, their desire to enter into expensive long term contracts, A bevy of prospects and the teams desire to part with those prospects. That products a very short list.

      • Jason Nereim

        I completely agree. Personally, I think the Cardinals fit that criteria the best with money coming off the books (Beltran, Westbrook) and a bevy of major league ready players that could be deemed expendable. Further, they have a team constructed to win right now, so trading future wins for those of the immediate variety, could be appealing. Likewise, the Rays are also built to compete right now so I could see a greater focus on major league ready talent versus higher ceiling prospects, such as teams like the Cubs or Pirates may offer.

  • phattitudes

    The Rangers, along with BOS, NYY, LAA, and DET should not even be considered. The Rays are not here to strengthen their opposition. Any glimmer of a trade with those teams has to be totally lopsided in the Rays favor. Ideally the trade is with a NL team. I agree St Louis is the most attractive trade partner but they are probably not interested although a left handed starter of Price’s caliber should tempt them. They have by far the best collection of talent that they could part with at a minimal impact to their team. One motivator may be to enter into talks with CIN, PIT or even CHI. All have attractive options. Creating a competition in the NL Central could maximize Price’s trade value. In this highly competitive division, it would be painful to lose a Price to a team within the division. LAD do not really have the right list of talent to offer. Any trade with them may have to involve third team interested in an LA outfielder.

    The Rays should target getting some major league talent or major league ready (AAA) talent such as a Myers at the core of the trade. Ideally positionally that fills a hole at C, 1B, or possibly in the OF. Additionally they need two pitching prospects with at least one being a left hander. The pitching pipeline must be kept full. One needs to be proven enough to be considered low risk to be a significant major league talent. Additional pieces are required and could ultimately swing the deal though they can be longer term prospects. Ultimately this should be similar to the Shields package but better (Price is a Cy Young winner and younger). Certainly STL (Adams – 1B, Wacha – P, or Rosenthal – P), CIN (Hamilton – OF), and CHI (Castillo – C) all have players that would be worth considering as part of package. The Rays have been down this road before and generally come out with a rather sweet deal. Can’t way to see how this ends up.

    • Jason Nereim

      I honestly don’t know why the Cubs should be interested despite the rumors. They obviously are not in a spot to compete right now and any players traded (Baez, Soler, Vogelbach) should be considered integral to turning the franchise around. PIT and CIN do make more sense however.

      • phattitudes

        Theo Epstein has been cleaning house, dumping salary, and piling up prospects for two years. He is not satisfied bringing up the rear in the division. His goal is to make the Cubs king of the division. He is close to launching the all new Cubs. The lovable loser image is going to go. This will not be a gradual rebuild. It will start with a bang. They will be a major player in Free Agency. What better way to launch than grabbing a pitching staff anchor who is still under 30. Their rebuild will not be a Rays or Twins style rebuild, but rather a BOS or NYY style rebuild. They have a lot of prospects and just possibly could part with some. Will it be this year, maybe not. The point is more to garner interest among various teams in the NL Central to drive the price up. It the ultimate buyer was St Louis, that would be great for the Rays because they have so many players that would fill Rays near term needs. Getting rumored talks started with any two of the other teams in this highly competitive division should perk the interest of St Louis. Ultimately the Rays will accept the offer that best suits their needs. It is not an attractive option for the teams who lose the negotiation to face Price 4 or 5 times a year. Let see what happens.

  • Baltar

    The Rays will not get both Profar and Alfaro for Price (wouldn’t that be nice), but either one of them and a couple of other decent players or prospects would be good.