Entering the offseason, everyone knew that if anyone wanted to acquire Tampa Bay Rays ace left-hander David Price in a trade, the cost was going to be significant. We did not think, though, that the Rays would be asking for as ridiculous of a return as this. Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Rays were asking for Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar as “starting points” in a potential Price deal to the Cleveland Indians, with a top prospect like Francisco Lindor completing the package. What does that even mean?
There is no way to construe that as a deal that the Indians would consider making even for a moment. Santana may no longer be a full-time catcher, but he is still coming off an enormous offensive year, managing a .268/.377/.455 line ((137 OPS+) with 39 doubles and 20 home runs. Salazar, meanwhile, rolled between Double-A and Triple-A before bursting onto the scene for 10 regular season starts with Cleveland before the year was through. The Indians even thought enough of him to start him in the AL Wild Card playoff against the Rays. Trading either of them would be a big hit to the Indians–trading both is an impossibity, and adding in Lindor is simply overkill. What point were the Rays trying to make demanding a package the Indians would say no to instantaneously?
Are the Rays’ demands to the Indians indicative of how highly they value Price? Would they only trade him in a deal that looks like an obvious win for them right from the start? If we read into Pluto’s report from that angle, it seems like it is becoming exceedingly likely that the Rays will hold onto Price for next season. The Rays have all the power in the trade talks–they have no need to trade Price, and they can ask for whatever they want from opposing teams. They have always said that they will only trade one of their star players if an offer blows them away, and with Price the best player they have ever considered trading, the standard for that type of offer is higher than ever. We can say that David Price is not going anywhere unless the Rays receive an insane return, and with the odds of them getting that return looking low, we can expect that he will be the Rays’ starter on Opening Day for 2014. But looking at this report from that perspective leaves one big thing out: trade talks are not a monologue but a conversation. How did the Indians respond when they heard the Rays say that?
The Rays are shooting for the moon with David Price, and they are going to see if they can get it. Realistically, they were never going to get Santana and Salazar for Price, but starting the negotiations that high means that they can settle for significantly less and still find their way to a monster return. What did Chris Antonetti the Indians say after hearing that Andrew Friedman and the Rays wanted Santana and Salazar? Did they offer Santana and a second-tier prospect for Price? Did they propose a package built around say Salazar or Lindor and Trevor Bauer? The Rays tossed all those names out there, and the question is going to be who the Indians are actually willing to part with. If they said they would be willing to deal just one of the players the Rays mentioned, that is enough to start talking. No, Andrew Friedman and the Rays have not lost their minds. No, David Price is not a lock to be in Tampa Bay next season. Friedman is just executing a negotiation strategy and seeing just how close to his lofty demands he can actually receive.