As of right now, David Price is going nowhere. The Rays’ ace left-hander was widely expected to be traded this offseason, but the offers still have not come and now there is real chance that Price stays in Tampa Bay. There are still reasons for the holdup, most notably the pursuit by many prospective Price suitors of Masahiro Tanaka, but it is January 10th now and time is running out to make a trade. If a deal is not reached before spring training, the odds go down to next-to-none that they will trade him before the end of the 2014 season. The Rays know they can keep Price, and having him gives their playoff chances in 2014 a significant boost. But before we mark the Rays down for keeping Price, we have to remind ourselves that this entire situation has happened before.
This past Wednesday was the three year anniversary of the Matt Garza trade on 1/8/11. The Rays dealt their star right-hander to the Chicago Cubs along with Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld, a trade that has been praised as one of Andrew Friedman’s best. Leading up to that trade, though, it was not certain at all that Garza would be dealt. As late as December 18, 2010, Friedman said that he was not looking to trade a starter. Teams like the Cubs and the Washington Nationals continued to pursue, but even on January 5th, Buster Olney reported that a deal was far away and more likely to occur to July. Then the deal feel into place and was finalized three days later. The bottom line is that things can materialize quickly–and the timeline with Price is not so different than what transpired with Garza.
On December 19, 2013, three years and one day after the Friedman quote above, Jon Heyman reported that the Rays were starting to consider keeping Price. They were coming with a different perspective from that 2010 offseason, wanting to be blown away by a deal in both cases but this time actually believing that a deal would take place. There was also one other big difference: Friedman spoke days after the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to sign Cliff Lee, who had been the most sought-after pitcher on the market. Right now, Tanaka is still available, and it is only after he signs that we can gauge with any accuracy the chances that a Price deal comes together. Everything is pushed back a month from 2010 because the deadline to sign Tanaka is not until January 24th. From there, the Rays would have just three weeks to trade Price before pitchers and catchers report on February 14th. The last time a trade of this caliber was made in February or March was way back on February 10, 2000, when the Seattle Mariners traded Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds. But if there is any player who could get traded in a similar type of deal, it is player not all that far below Griffey’s caliber in Price.
Since we have gotten this far and David Price remains a Tampa Bay Ray, the chances of him staying the team are considerably higher than they were at the beginning of the offseason. That being said, anything can still happen. Masahiro Tanaka’s signing will set off a chain reaction of deals, and maybe it is then that a team makes the Rays the type of offer they are looking for in exchange for Price. As late as January 5, 2011 Joe Maddon said “he (Garza) will be pitching for us.” Three days later he was gone. Don’t be shocked if the same thing happens with David Price.