David Price is an ace. Teams are lining up to trade for him believing that he can change everything for their team. After seeing just how good he has been for them, however, imagining a future without him is very difficult for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have traded topflight pitchers before–Matt Garza and James Shields immediately come to mind–but none of them were as good as Price. Can the Rays really hope to contend with him gone? If they want any reason for optimism, though, they can look no further than this year’s American League Cy Young voting.
We all know that Max Scherzer won the AL Cy Young for 2013. Looking farther down the voting, we see something interesting. Noticeably absent is one David Price. Present, though, at 9th place, was Matt Moore, having received a pair of 4th place votes. Moore beating out Price may have been pretty arbitrary. Moore went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA while Price went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA, but despite the fact that they made the same amount of starts, Price threw 186.2 innings while Moore tossed just 150.1. Moore struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings compared to Price’s 7.3, but he also walked just a third of the batters Moore did. But just the fact that Moore was there and Price was not reminds us of something–no matter where David Price ends up, the Rays will find someone to be right there in the Cy Young voting year after year.
We can go on and on about Moore’s potential. While his control remains a serious concern, Moore’s changeup and curveball are both better than Price’s will ever be, giving him a chance to be an even more dominant pitcher. He may not have taken a David Price 2010-esque leap in 2013, but if he can find a way to make his release point more consistent, the Rays may have themselves another lefty ace before they know it. But Moore is only the beginning. Alex Cobb overcame a concussion and ear issue to go 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and a 134-45 strikeout to walk ratio in 143.1 innings pitched. Chris Archer finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, putting up a 3.22 ERA in his 128.2 IP. Jeremy Hellickson had a rough season, he remains talented and is primed for a major bounce-back in 2014. Then for the fifth spot, the Rays have Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome who could be options immediately and pitchers like Enny Romero who may not be so far away. David Price is an excellent pitcher and the Rays will certainly miss him–just not as much as you would think.
In ALDS Game 4, Jeremy Hellickson got the start, and for one inning he looked like his vintage self before he fell apart. Matt Moore came in for the third inning and proceeded to throw 2 shutout frames, allowing a hit and a walk but striking out 3. Then in the 9th, Chris Archer retired the only batter he faced in relief of Fernando Rodney. As the game ended, David Price was warming up, hoping the Rays would come back so he would have the opportunity to pitch. It didn’t happen as the Rays lost. Was that a harbinger of things of come, a sign that the Rays could not cut it without David Price? When Matt Garza left, the Rays still had David Price and James Shields. When Shields left, the Rays still had Price. With Price set to depart, there is not that clear topflight pitcher ready to step in. But even if the Rays lost Game 4, the future will be a different ballgame. It will be a team effort until that real ace pitcher comes into the limelight, and the Rays will need their young arms to step up. However, after seeing how talented they are and how far they helped take the Rays even in a season that Price fell short of his Cy Young pedigree, there is every reason to think the Rays will be just fine.