At this point it is no secret who the top trade candidates are for David Price (if the Tampa Bay Rays elect to trade him, which remains a big uncertainty). The Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, and Toronto Blue Jays are commonly mentioned as the teams with the most interest in Price. However in the past we have seen multiple times where a “mystery team” swoop in and acquire a marquee player despite having not been heavily linked to him. Here’s a look at some teams that could end up being that mystery team in a Price deal.
The Brewers have been surprise contenders this year, and they currently lead the NL Central. However, the Central is a tight race, with both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals sitting just 2.5 games back and the Cincinnati Reds still in it at 5.5 games back. The winner of this division could very well be the one that is most aggressive at the deadline.
The Brewers could stand to add some pitching, as fifth starter Marco Estrada has struggled to a 4.94 ERA. Top prospect Jimmy Nelson has recently made a couple of starts for the Brewers, but they do not have the wiggle room to afford a potential learning curve with him if they can acquire a top pitcher. Adding Price could be the boost that the Brewers needed to take the NL Central and run with it.
As far as prospects, the Brewers have the pieces to get a deal done if they are willing to trade them. A trade would likely center around the aforementioned Nelson or young big leaguer Willy Peralta. The biggest issue would be payroll, as the Brewers sit at a record $103 million mark per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The Brewers would have to stretch their payroll this year and next to take on Price’s large salary.
The Cubs have no need for Price this season, but at some point they have to turn their rebuilding mindset back into a contending one. The team has a strong farm system position player-wise, but they lack marquee pitching prospects. If they want to compete, they are going to have to go out and get a pitcher at some point, so why not right now when they potentially have the chance to acquire one as good as Price? Of course, they could possibly just wait until Price is a free agent after the 2015 season, but him signing an extension elsewhere is a possibility and pitchers of his caliber rarely hit the open market.
Another hang-up in a Price-Cubs deal would be his control. Right now, Price is under control through 2015, but the Cubs aren’t realistically going to be contenders until 2016 or beyond. If they acquired Price, signing him to an extension would have to be a condition of the trade. However, Price has actually made comments about wanting to play in Chicago, and it seems he would be open to extension talks, where the Cubs would likely get him cheaper than if they waited for him to hit the open market.
As far as prospects, the Cubs have one of the best systems in all of baseball. Even if the team didn’t include uber-prospects in Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in a deal, they would still be able to get it done. They can easily take on Price’s salary because their payroll is currently sitting under $100 million for the first time since 2007 as they have kept spending low during their rebuilding (hat tip to Cot’s).
Kansas City Royals
GM Dayton Moore is likely fighting for his job this year, and unfortunately for him the Royals are hovering around .500 and would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today. However, their 7 game deficit in the division isn’t insurmountable, and their 2.5 game deficit for the second Wild Card spot is absolutely something they can overcome.
Acquiring Price would be the type of bold move that Moore could make in order to vault the Royals into contention. Their current fourth and fifth starters, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen, haven’t exactly been inspiring this year, so Price would be a huge upgrade. The Royals also need some offense in the outfield, so the Rays could be an even better trade partner if they were willing to include someone like Matt Joyce or Ben Zobrist alone with Price.
As far as prospects, the Royals have an interesting bunch. They have plenty of upside in their system, however their top prospects like Kyle Zimmer (injury), Raul Adalberto Mondesi (poor performance), and Jorge Bonifacio (poor performance) have all seen their stocks drop this year. For a deal to get done, the Rays would have to look past some of these risks and instead rely on the fact that these players have high upside. Salary could be a big issue, as the Royals currently have a record $92 million payroll. They could take on Price this year and stretch the payroll, but keeping him around in 2015 despite the departing contract of James Shields would be a bigger issue.
Overall, deals to these teams remain fairly unlikely, and IF Price is dealt he will probably be sent to one of the more commonly mentioned names. However there have been plenty of mystery teams that have made a late push to make a blockbuster deal in the past, and that can’t be totally counted out in a Price trade. These three teams all make varying degrees of sense for Price, and just maybe one of them could jump in and swoop him up.