Just like their teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, ace left-handers David Price and Jon Lester are on entirely different paths. While Lester remains a member of the Red Sox for now, he has been scratched from his start for tonight and a trade appears to be only a matter of time away from taking place. Price, meanwhile, is currently pitching against the Milwaukee Brewers with a deal seeming less likely by the moment. Everything could change, however, depending on which team lands Lester in the end.
The suitors for David Price at this point are few and far in between. The Rays’ demands in exchange for him have continuously increased since their team began to click, and only a select few teams have the pieces they are looking for and would be willing to give them up. Various franchises have been connected to Price, but unless the Los Angeles Dodgers have been bluffing this whole time about being unwilling to deal Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only team left at the table. As we discussed earlier today, Bob Nightengale reports that the Rays could get Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and a Competitive Balance draft pick from St. Louis in exchange for Price. But even if the Cardinals would be willing to do that, acquiring Price is not their only option.
The Cardinals have also been mentioned as a suitor for Lester, and they could trade for him at a fraction of the cost and still get the ace pitcher they need to boost their rotation. The Cardinals would not get Lester for the long-term like they would have a chance to do with Price, but given their system’s pitching depth, they won’t ever need a starter as badly as they do right now. Not having an additional topflight starter for next season–but keeping Taveras and Miller–really would not be that bad. The bottom line is that Lester could fit even better for the Cardinals than Price, and if that deal goes down, any chance of a David Price trade goes out the window.
There are more teams with the prospects to trade for Lester than there are for Price, and the Cardinals could still be open to a deal with the Rays if Lester ended up elsewhere. However, if the Rays are going to get the sense of desperation from St. Louis necessary to get a deal done, there is only one scenario that could make that happen: if the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Jon Lester. If that happened, suddenly the Cardinals might feel the need to respond. The Pirates lead St. Louis by a half-game in the standings, and if they were to acquire Lester, that would leave them poised to extend that lead. The Cardinals are a well-run organization, but they would feel the pressure to make a countermove if that took place, even if it might not be the best thing for their team’s future. If the Cardinals and Rays are having a rational discussion about David Price, the Cardinals will never meet the Rays’ lofty demands. The Pirates acquiring Lester may be the only thing that could change that.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Jon Lester as today progresses and how his ultimate destination will affect David Price. At the end of the day, however, Lester heading to anywhere other than Pittsburgh would likely mean that Price is sticking around. For Rays fans, the question will be whether they should root for Lester to end up with the Pirates or not.