Despite the Rays’ best efforts to get a huge haul in return for David Price, it seems thus far that teams are fairly uninterested in giving up the type of prospects it will take to get him. With the exception of the Seattle Mariners possibly willing to part with Mike Zunino, no teams have been publicly rumored to be willing to part with an impact prospect to acquire Price. Thus, the Rays are going to have to get creative to maximize Price’s value. One way could be to include a second, or even third player in a Price deal.
This type of deal is not unprecedented for the Rays. In the James Shields deal, Shields was obviously the headliner, but the Rays also included Wade Davis, who had a good deal of value himself, and Elliot Johnson, a fringe-major league bench player. This allowed the Royals to be more willing to part with top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi in the deal. The Rays have shown they will do anything it takes to maximize their player’s value in the past. Therefore, there is no reason they will not do this again in a Price deal.
One option for the Rays could be to include an established major league player. Obvious candidates include Jose Lobaton, Matt Joyce, and Sean Rodriguez. Lobtaon likely no longer has a roster spot due to the re-signing of Jose Molina and acquisition of Ryan Hanigan. He could be brought into spring training as depth, or he could sweeten any Price deal. With catching at a premium in the big leagues, Lobaton would have solid value. I do imagine if the Mariners parted with Zunino in a Price deal, Lobaton would head to Seattle. Joyce is a nice piece who slots in at DH for the Rays this year, especially against right-handers. But, Joyce is fairly replaceable, which could lead to the Rays including him in a Price deal as well. Joyce has experience as an outfielder, and while he is at best an average defender, he could be a good option for teams as a platoon option. Rodriguez also is a valuable player to the Rays, and likely slots in as versatile bench bat for 2014. Like Joyce, though, the Rays could replace him from within so they would not have much of a problem parting with him in a Price deal. All of these players could make a team more willing to part with their top prospects to acquire Price.
One more interesting player that the Rays could think about dealing is Desmond Jennings. I know, Jennings is a young centerfielder who has been an above-average hitter thus far in his career, and he figures to get better as he gets more experience. However, a shift to centerfield saw his UZR/150 drop significantly (from 16.4 in 2012 to -7.0 in 2013) , although all defensive metrics must be taken with a grain of salt from year to year. 2013 saw the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier, who offers plus defense and showed flashes of an above-average bat between Double-A and Triple-A. Thus, Jennings is becoming expendable. Kiermaier might not be quite big league ready, but David DeJesus does have experience playing centerfield and Brandon Guyer could be his platoon partner. Suddenly Joyce would be opened up to play the outfield again, and the Rays would just need another bat to be part of a DH platoon. Jennings still does have very good value on his own, but pairing him with Price would have many teams drooling. Historically, trades like this very rarely happen, but if anyone is to break precedence, it is the Rays. To have the Rays part with Price AND Jennings, a team would have to give up an absolutely HUGE haul. But, for a perennial Cy Young candidate and one of the best, young, up-and-coming outfielders, that just might happen.
Another option for the Rays is pairing Price with one of their top prospects. Putting Price alongside someone like Taylor Guerrieri, Hak-Ju Lee, or Jake Odorizzi would certainly allow the Rays to acquire a better package. If pairing someone like Odorizzi with Price could convince the Mariners to part with Taijuan Walker, then it might be worth it for the Rays. Overall, this is the least likely pairing the Rays will have. The Rays simply value their prospects too much, especially those ranked at the top of their system. Even an injured player like Guerrieri seems to be almost untouchable to any outside team. That being said, it is still an option for the Rays to consider, especially if the Rays are blown out of the water by an offer for Price and a top prospect.
The Rays could elect to include more of a fringe-prospect as a throw in player. Someone like Alejandro Segovia, Willie Argo, or Marty Gantt could fit the bill. These players all have the ability to reach the big leagues in some capacity, but they will all have to fight their whole way through the minors. The problem with including one of these players along with Price is that they would not significantly increase his value. They could convince a team that is on the fence on giving up its top prospect to give up that prospect by including a fringe-prospect. More likely though, a player like this would be a 3rd piece in the deal, similar to Elliot Johnson in the James Shields deal or Fernando Perez in the Matt Garza trade. As a third piece, a fringe-prospect would make sense if it meant a team included a more significant piece in their offer. But, the Rays might rather hold onto this type of player if it doesn’t make a significant impact on a Price deal.
One last option for the Rays would be to include one of their many Quad-A type players in a Price trade. Among the Rays Quad-A players are Vince Belnome, Cole Figueroa, Leslie Anderson, and Josh Lueke, among others. These players are all fairly proven in the upper minors, but for some reason or another, they are borderline big leaguers. These players could fit in a 25th man role with the Rays, but they could also be more valuable to another team. Therefore, including them in a Price deal could cause a team to be more willing to give up a top prospect. Once again, it is more likely that a Quad-A player would be the third piece in a deal. However, they come with more value than a fringe-prospect, and paired with another piece on top of Price they could add solid value to a trade. The Rays are usually depth conscious, so they aren’t going to give up one of these players for nothing, but they would be more than willing to in the right deal.
With David Price getting a surprisingly low amount of interest so far in the offseason, the Rays might have to get creative to acquire the type of package they are looking for in return for Price. One way of doing this could be to include additional players alongside Price in a deal. Andrew Friedman doesn’t have to trade Price, but giving up more value on top of Price might allow teams to make offers that satisfy him. There are many types of players that could be included in this deal, some that would add more value than others. Overall, if adding more pieces to a Price deal helps the Rays to acquire young, impact talent, it is something they should certainly look into doing.