Over the past few weeks, we have heard about a lot of teams being interested in Tampa Bay Rays trade chips David Price and Ben Zobrist, but few actual discussions. Now, those are finally taking place, and the Seattle Mariners are the team on the other side of the table. Are these the trade talks that will finally result in a deal taking place?
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tells us that the Rays and M’s have been primarily discussing Zobrist, and a name that has come up quite often as the centerpiece of a possible return is Nick Franklin. Franklin, who the Rays nearly acquired this past offseason, actually has quite a bit in common with Zobrist as a switch-hitting shortstop who has since learned to play second base, third base, and the outfield. The Rays could dream of having a Zobrist-like player under team control for the next five years. However, Franklin had difficulty making contact last season (although his numbers were not that bad overall) before finding himself stuck at Triple-A for most of this year. Franklin was ranked in the 70’s of the Top 100 Prospect rankings from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to 2013, but after mixed results in his rookie year, we have to wonder whether he should still be regarded that highly. The Rays would certainly be interested in Franklin for Zobrist–they clearly like his abilities a lot–but the Mariners would have to throw another piece into the deal to make it work. Would they be willing to throw a prospect like 17 year old Luiz Gohara into the mix to try to sweeten the pot?
There has also been chatter of any deal involving Ben Zobrist being expanded to include David Price, but that looks difficult to see now. The good news for the prospect of a deal is that the Mariner may be more willing to deal top right-handed pitching prospect Taijuan Walker than ever. Combine Walker’s shoulder injury that sidelined him until June with the Mariners’ desire to improve their rotation, and Walker may be expendable in the right trade. However, we have already heard that Price would not be willing to sign an extension in Seattle, and would the M’s be willing to give us serious prospects for a player likely to leave after 2015? In addition, the struggles of Walker have made him more available, but also less attractive to the Rays. A deal surrounding Walker would take even more pieces around him to make it work, and the Mariners will not go crazy to get a deal done. Everyone wants to talk about the possibility of a Price trade, but unless the Mariners are a lot more desperate than we can surmise, it seems unlikely that they will be the team to get him.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners will keep talking about Ben Zobrist and Nick Walker, and we will have to see whether anything comes of it. If the Rays are willing to deal Zobrist despite their strong play of late and the Mariners chip in another one of their top prospects aside from Franklin, a deal could come together. That would be a big enough trade by itself, and there is no point wishing for a David Price deal that is a long-shot to occur.
Update (4:00 PM): Heyman adds that Walker, D.J. Peterson, and James Paxton have been discussed in potential Price trades. We can’t describe that as a surprise–of course, the Rays will ask for the Mariners’ top prospects. The question will be how much the Mariners are willing to budge.
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