We have all heard for over a year about the possibility of David Price being traded, but it is looking more and more certain that he will be traded this offseason. Teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and St. Louis Cardinals have been commonly mentioned as potential candidates to acquire Price. However, when dealing with trades, it is often the unmentioned teams that make a late push to make a franchise-altering deal. Who could be this “mystery team” that will try to acquire Price?
With Price, there are already only a few teams that have what it takes to acquire him. Any team that acquires Price will have to be willing to take on his salary, have high-end prospects to make a deal, and be ready to contend in 2014. Already these conditions severely limit the teams that will be in on Price. A team such as the Minnesota Twins has the pieces to acquire Price, but at the same time they will not contend next year, even if they did have Price. A team such as the Yankees has the money to take on Price, but they do not have the type of marquee prospects that the Rays are looking for. That being said, there are a couple of teams that could look to acquire Price who have not been heavily mentioned when talking about a Price trade.
The Pirates would make a very good fit for Price. After finally reaching the playoffs in 2013 after a very long drought, the Pirates will be looking to advance further into the playoffs next year. With A.J. Burnett coming off the books (if they choose not to resign him), the Pirates will have the financials and the rotation spot to motivate them to trade for Price. Pirates fans will be hungry to get back into the playoffs, and this type of move would help the Pirates prove to the fan base that they are trying to build a team that can succeed year after year. The Pirates also have the prospects to get it done, and after a very good 2013 draft they could be motivated to move some of their top prospects.
The likes of Jameson Taillon, Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Tyler Glasnow could all provide a centerpiece for a Price trade, along with some other prospects. Ultimately, I think David Price and a throw in (someone like Ty Morrison) for Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Josh Bell could get the job done. Taillon is the Pirates top pitching prospect, and while he has not quite lived up to expectations after being taken number 2 overall in 2012, he still provides good upside and is not far off from reaching the big leagues. Heredia is another touted pitching prospect, but is for the most part unproven, as he has only thrown 65 innings in full season ball. However, he is just 19 and his results in pro ball have been stellar so far. Bell was extremely valued out of high school in 2011, but dropped to the second round after he told teams that he would not sign. The Pirates managed to sign him nevertheless, and while njuries have limited his career to this point, he managed to play in 120 Low-A games in 2013, posting good numbers and maintaining his reputation for an advanced bat. Overall, this haul could be very good for the Rays, as they could acquire two front line starters and an advanced bat. It would be risky, as Heredia and Bell have not reached the upper levels yet, but they both have the potential to be very good. With a package like that, the Pirates could be right up there among the top contenders to acquire Price if they put that hit in the ring.
Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners GM, finds himself in a similar position this offseason as Dayton Moore, the Royals GM, was in last season. Moore showed he was willing to give up a haul to land James Shields, so the Rays could potentially use this to their advantage once again, as Zduriencik will be looking to add frontline talent to save his job in 2014. The Mariners have some wiggle room with their salary, and they could use this to afford Price for the next two years. The Mariners also have a very good farm system, and showed that they would be willing to part with key prospects when they almost traded for Justin Upton last offseason.
The Mariners are stacked with young talent, especially on the pitching side. Names such as Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, Tyler Pike, James Paxton, and Mike Zunino could be targets on the Rays behalf. A potential trade that could work for both sides would be Price and a throw in in exchange for Zunino, Paxton, Ketel Marte, and Carson Smith. Zunino would be the Rays catcher of the future. He would prove very valuable at a position the Rays generally struggle to get production from. It is not often that a good controllable young catcher changes hands in a trade, so it will take a large amount of convincing from Andrew Friedman in order to get Zduriencik to part with Zunino. Even though it will be tough to acquire Zunino, if there is anybody who could convince the Mariners to part with him it is Friedman.
Paxton dominated the Rays in his major league debut debut, and if the Mariners decided to go for Price, he could be a player the Rays could look at. He hit a bit of a road bump in 2013 in his first year at Triple-A, but he was excellent after the Mariners called him up and has the stuff to be a very good big league starting pitcher. Marte, meanwhile. is a bit under the radar, but as an athletic shortstop with strong defense and a developing bat, he would be an interesting upside play. Finally, Smith is a relief prospect who was very good in Double-A in 2013 and is not far off from contributing to a big league bullpen. Overall this would be a good haul for the Rays, as they get two prospects that could become above-average big leaguers as well as two more players who could end up becoming useful pieces. But seeing the Mariners trading from their young power arms is hard enough, and Zunino getting dealt is even more unlikely. For that type of deal to materialize, it will take both extreme motivation from the Mariners and flawless negotiation by Friedman, but if the Mariners begin to feel the pressure to contend, you never know what could happen.
We see time and time again where a blockbuster trade ends with a mystery team acquiring a big name talent. The Pirates and Mariners could both be that team for David Price. Even though they have not been highly mentioned with Price at this point, they both feature the top prospects the Rays are looking for a Price trade if they decide to join the fray. Both teams have the means to acquire Price and the funds to possibly extend him–the only question is how motivated they will be to get a deal done. Andrew Friedman and the Rays will explore all of their options to get the best return possible. If either of them so chooses, the Pirates or the Mariners could be the best fit.