With the Winter Meetings always come a plethora of rumors, and this year is no different. It is no secret that David Price is being made available by the Rays if a team is wililng to stomach the cost it will take to get him. While suitors such as the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers have been rumored such far, new suitors have, and will continue to emerge. At the Winter Meetings, both the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants displayed interest in Price.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are an interesting case. After acquiring a great deal of talent prior to the 2013 season, the Jays were very disappointing, largely due to injuries. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will need to acquire more talent so that the Blue Jays can reach their potential in 2014, and Price is certainly an option. As with every team interested in Price, the team will need to have the ability to contend in 2014, the payroll to take on his salary, and the prospects necessary to acquire Price. Then, the Blue Jays have to overcome the fact that the Rays will be loathe to deal Price within the division. Can the Blue Jays meet those criteria?
The Blue Jays were a bad team in 2013, going 74-88 and finishing at the bottom of the AL East. However, the Jays struggled with injuries in 2013, which contributed in a large part to their inability to win games. The Jays do have the talent to win ballgames in 2014. Their lineup features a solid core in Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, and Brett Lawrie that has the ability to score plenty of runs. The Jays are weaker on the pitching side, with a rotation that is headlined by R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. However, acquiring Price would be a major boost to their pitching staff. At this point, the Blue Jays are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. But acquiring a pitcher such as Price would probably transform them into fringe contenders for the second wild card spot. The Blue Jays do have the motivation and ability to contend in 2014, especially with Anthopoulos close to being put on the hot seat.
The most iffy part of this trade would be the Blue Jays’ ability to take on Price’s salary. Currently, they have about $110 million committed to players for 2014. Add in projected arbitration salaries and pre-arbitration salaries and their payroll for 2014 looks to be around $130 million. Anthopoulos has said the team’s payroll won’t decrease for 2014, but at the same time it is unlikely the payroll will significantly increase from their 2013 salary of $117 million. However, the Blue Jays have been shopping some players that could allow them to save money to acquire Price. Both Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus have been rumored in trades this offseason. Lind will make $7 million in 2014, while Rasmus is projected to earn $6.5 million through arbitration. Trading both players would save $13.5 million, which is enough to offset Price’s $13.1 million projected salary. The Blue Jays could have enough salary room to take on Price, but it will likely take some maneuvering to free up room in their budget.
Even after giving up many of their top prospects in trades during the 2012-2013 offseason, the Blue Jays do have the pieces to get a deal done. Among the Blue Jays top prospects are Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, and D.J. Davis. The system is heavily oriented towards pitchers. It is said that they will be very reluctant to give up Sanchez and Stroman, but they are not outright untouchable, and for a pitcher of Price’s caliber the Blue Jays could be willing to part with one of their prized pitchers. At the major league level, the Rays could also be interested in 3B Brett Lawrie, although he would have to change positions because of Evan Longoria. Lind could also be a fit for the Rays at first base, but the Blue Jays might need to take on some of his salary for the Rays to be interested.
A final proposal of SP Marcus Stroman, SP Roberto Osuna, RP John Stilson, and OF Dalton Pompey for David Price could work. Stroman is close to the big leagues after spending all of 2013 in AA. He will need a bit more seasoning in the upper minors, but he could be a good middle of the rotation option for the Rays by mid-late 2014. Osuna is an 18 year old who is touted with good stuff but even better command and pitchability. That being said, he struggled with injuries in 2013, which caused him to be ineffective in 10 starts at Low-A. He is still very raw, but with good stuff and pitchability that is ahead of his years, he could become a number two starter down the road. Stilson is a solid relief prospect that has good stuff but struggles with command due to a wild delivery. But, he is not far off from the big leagues and has good upside if he can hone his mechanics. Pompey, meanwhile, played all of 2013 as a 21-year old in Low-A. He features good speed and defense, with the ability to hit some, although for little power. This would be a good package for the Rays, but it would also carry plenty of risk. The bigger issue is that it likely would not be enough. With the Rays reluctant to hand Price to a division rival, the Blue Jays would have to pay a premium, and that could very well be enough to eliminate them from contention.
San Francisco Giants
After winning the World Series in 2012, the Giants disappointed by not even making the playoffs in 2013. The Giants have just recently shown interest in Price during the winter meetings. Do they fit the main three criteria needed to acquire Price?
After a disappointing 2013, the Giants look to rebound in 2014. The Giants normally pride themselves on pitching, and their rotation looks to be solid going into 2013. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Tim Hudson lead the way, with former Cy Young Tim Lincecum winner a lock in the rotation as well. Ryan Vogelsong was recently resigned as well, although he is not a sure thing after a disappointing 2013 season. The Giants also have a solid lineup, which features Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt. The Giants should contend in 2014 after they did not reach expectations in 2013. Acquiring Price would help them to bridge the gap in talent between them and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are being favorited to win the NL West thus far.
The Giants have recently given out quite a bit of money. This offseason alone, they have resigned Pence, Lincecum, and Vogelsong and also added Hudson. After a 2013 payroll of $136 million, the Giants have $130 million dollars already committed for 2014. Add in arbitration eligible players and pre-arbitration salaries and this number figures to be closer to $145 million when all is said and done. Like the Blue Jays, the Giants would likely have to do some maneuvering in order to be able to take on Price’s salary, although this maneuvering might not be as easy for them as the Blue Jays. This is likely the biggest barrier between a Price-Giants trade.
The Giants do have the prospects needed in order to acquire Price, although their farm system isn’t near as strong as other Price suitors. Their system is headlined by Kyle Crick, and features other names such as Clayton Blackburn, Mike Kickham, Ty Blach, Eric Surkamp and Chris Stratton. Similar to the Blue Jays, the Giants’ system is headlined by pitchers. Crick is likely their only high-impact player, so he would probably be a part of any Price trade. Another interesting name from the big leagues could be young first baseman Brandon Belt, who would fit a big need for the Rays. The Giants have what it would take to get a trade done, but only if they are willing to part with Crick, who is their only impact prospect.
A final proposal of David Price for SP Kyle Crick, 1B Brandon Belt, and C Andrew Susac could work. Crick has great upside, although he is not proven in the upper minors yet. He is still raw, but his plus fastball, above-average slider and curveball, and average changeup gave him very good results at High-A in 2013 (1.57 ERA in 68.2 innings). He still has work to do, but Crick could be a frontline starter when all is said and done. Belt would pencil in as the Rays everyday first baseman. He will not hit for quite the prototypical amount of power expected for a first baseman, but he did hit a respectable 17 home runs in 2013 to go along with a .289/.360/.481 line. He is a solid hitter for average that still has some upside at 25 years old, and would be a nice addition to the Rays. Susac would add a solid catching prospect to the Rays’ system. He is a good all around catcher, and while he doesn’t have one tool that stands out, he could be an average starter or above-average backup if he continues to progress. If the Giants are truly willing to give up all three players and extend on the salary side, they could feature more prominently in the Price talks in the days and weeks to come. But is their minor league system deep enough for them to consider making such a move?
The Blue Jays and Giants are just two more teams who could matchup for a David Price trade. Both teams have the motivation to contend and the prospects that are needed to acquire Price. However, both will probably need to clear some payroll space to take on Price, and both have a clear obstacle in the way of a trade: the Blue Jays’ status as the Rays’ division rival and the Giants’ lack of depth in their system. The Blue Jays and Giants are just two more teams that could be in on David Price, and the Rays have to hope their interest will drive up the cost to acquire Price even if neither team ends up acquiring him.