Yesterday, baseball’s trade season began with a bang. The Oakland Athletics acquired Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija and former-Ray Jason Hammel in exchange for consensus top-15 prospect Addison Russell, 2013 1st rounder Billy McKinney, and 25-year old pitcher Dan Straily. However, this deal might have been a very different one, as the Tampa Bay Rays and A’s talked about a potential deal that included David Price and Russell according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Russell would have been a great addition to the Rays system. The 11th overall pick in 2012, Russell was ranked a top-15 prospect by Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus heading into the season. The 20-year old has put up a .302/.390/.519 line in 183 minor league games, showing great ability with the bat. He has an advanced feel for hitting and uses the whole field with ease. Russell has showcased ability to hit for contact and power, and that should continue in the big leagues. He is also a good defender at shortstop, showcasing good range, soft hands, and a strong arm. Russell has the makings of five above-average tools that already show up in games as a 20-year old, and having that at a premium position makes him a player with incredible value. Needless to say he is a player that every team wishes they had.
All of that said, there are many reasons why this deal didn’t work out. Yes Russell is a great prospect, but after him the A’s system really falls off. McKinney was considered the A’s number 2 prospect, but he has a ton of work to do, and has hit an underwhelming .241/.330/.400 this season. Things seemed to be going up for Straily last year, but he struggled this year in the big league rotation before being demoted, and has struggled at Triple-A since. The A’s have plenty of intriguing prospects, but none other than Russell were consider top-100 in baseball (though Daniel Robertson may be there shortly). Also it isn’t sure what the A’s offered behind Russell. They may have had the pieces to entice the Rays to give up Price, but they may not have been willing to offer up those pieces.
The second problem could have been timing. Now that the Rays are finally winning games (7 of their last 9), they are holding on to a hope that they can put together one of their magical runs and get back into competition. Thus, the Rays seem prepared to keep Price for the next couple weeks and see where they are in the standings as the trade deadline approaches. The A’s, meanwhile, saw that they have an immediate need for starting pitching. Rather than wait until the end of July to possibly acquire Price, the A’s had the opportunity to acquire two good pitchers and they weren’t going to let that slip through their fingers. If timing was the issue and not the quality of players offered in return, then not trading Price to the A’s could bite the Rays if they do not get back into contention.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics could not put together a deal for David Price despite serious discussions involving top prospect Addison Russell. We will never be certain exactly the proposal/s that the Rays turned down, but we do know that they turned down a deal for one of the most promising young players in all of baseball. Whether that ends up benefiting them or hurting them we will have to wait and see.