When a great player hits the market, team after team is going to show interest in dealing for him. There is a major difference, though, between showing interest and actually putting together a package good enough for that player’s team to actually consider making the trade. Thus far, the offers the Rays were hoping for have not been coming. Last offseason, the matchmaking process was not so difficult. The Tampa Bay Rays sought to deal James Shields while the Kansas City Royals were prepared to trade Wil Myers for a topflight starter, and with those two cards out on the table, it was not too long before a deal came together. Right now, however, the Rays are listening to offers for David Price, an even better pitcher than Shields, and there is no Myers on the trade block, no obvious candidate to headline in trade. The bottom line with all of these blockbuster trades: there always has to be a little desperation on somebody’s part.
The market has dictated what a player the caliber of David Price is worth. You are dealing one of the most highly-touted prospects in baseball, another well-regarded minor leaguer, and some combination of higher-risk prospects or major league depth to finish off the package. The exact terms of the deal can always be changed–the Rays would be fine accepting a talented young major leaguer instead of a top prospect–but the basic idea is the same and the cost is awfully steep. You deal all these players, and you know that with all of them there is the chance that they never work out. Even the most talented prospects so often fall apart. But while the risk is certainly present for the team dealing their star, for the acquiring team, the risk is exponentially higher. The team that reels in David Price will have him for two years unless they sign him to an extension. What if he gets hurt, as he did in 2013? Price pitched so well after he came back from his triceps injury, but having the possibility of injury creep into other teams’ minds can only be a bad thing.
Then there is the factor that has nothing to do with Price himself at all: the rest of your team. You only deal for David Price if you are sure he can take your team over the top. What if Price lives up to every bit of the hype but the rest of your team does not? Despite a 75-87 finish in 2010, the Chicago Cubs were convinced that adding Matt Garza would help them return to prominence. It did not work out–the Cubs got worse and worse in their first two years with Garza. Even in the case of Garza, though, the Cubs had an additional margin for error because Garza had three years under team control instead of two. If the first two years did not go well, they could deal Garza before or during his final year under contract, as they did at the trade deadline this season. The Seattle Mariners did acquire Cliff Lee in the 2010 offseason and then trade him at the deadline that same year, but no one wants to be the team that puts their fut firmly on the accelerator then starts jamming on the breaks. From the Rays side, we talk about their willingness to deal Price having a lot to do with their confidence level in their young starting pitchers to fill their hole Price will leave. But for prospective suitors, that faith in their young players to expedite their development and live up to their potential immediately may have to be even stronger.
The desperation is not there yet, and until that happens, David Price will be staying in Tampa Bay. Even a player like David Price can be picked apart–he did get injured this past sesaon–and no team is confident enough that Price will take them over the top. It only takes one enthusiastic team to make a trade turn into reality, and we have months to go to see who that will be. But at least so far, there are no obvious giveaways that a team exists with the motivation to get a David Price deal done, and the chances of him staying with the Rays may be a higher than we thought.