It is seemingly all but given that David Price is going to be traded this offseason. With two years left before free agency, the Rays have generally moved on from higher priced starters at this point, having traded Matt Garza and James Shields at the same time in their contracts. Factor in the over $4Million in deferred money that will be due to Price in 2014, which another team would have to pick up should he be traded, and Price being traded almost seems to be a lock.
The biggest problem with moving Price is that he is few true aces in baseball, and one of the top ten pitchers in the game. Players like that are not easily replaceable. In fact, it can be difficult to replace a great second starter, as the Rays found out with Shields last season. Jeremy Hellickson was expected to step into that role, but struggled for most of the season. Fortunately for the Rays, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Chris Archer stepped up and proved that they may be the foundation for the rays rotation going forward.
In particular, Cobb put together an excellent season. Despite missing two months after being hit in the head with a line drive, Cobb put together an 11-3 record with a 2.76 ERA. He improved his strikeout rate to 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings while keeping his walk rate at roughly the same level. In fact, statistically, a case could be made the Cobb was the Rays best starter throughout the season, as he led the team in ERA while being close to the team lead in strikeouts and WHiP.
Should Price get moved, the Rays are going to need someone to step up and attempt to fill that void. While being able to replace an ace is virtually impossible, the Rays have been able to churn out excellent starting pitching from their system. Cobb, Moore and Archer are the continuation of that trend. Yet, in terms of the ability to shut down the opposition, to be consistent throughout the season, and through overcoming adversity, Cobb may be the pitcher that attempts to fill the very large hole that Price’s departure would leave. Cobb has also proven that he can handle the spotlight, pitching 6.2 shutout innings in teh Wild Card game against the Indians, and holding the Red Sox to only two earned runs in his start in the ALDS.
Alex Cobb may not be David Price. However, he could develop into a reasonable facsimile in another year or so. Given time, Cobb may turn out to be the next ace for the Tampa Bay Rays.