Previously, the Arizona Diamondbacks have not been rumored to make any huge moves this offseason. However, in the last couple of days it has come to light that the Diamondbacks are in fact looking to acquire an ace pitcher. Everyone wants an ace, but few want to pay the steep cost necessary for a deal. But as stated by general manager Kevin Towers, the D-Backs actually prefer to acquire an ace through a trade. Although they were not largely connected with David Price early in the offseason, their desire to acquire an ace would also mean they would have interest acquiring Price. Anyone who could be in on a Price trade must meet three criteria; the ability to take on his contract, the ability to contend in 2014 and 2015, and the prospects to entice the Rays. Do the Diamondbacks meet this criteria?
In 2013, the Diamondbacks had a payroll of just under $90 million. Towers has already said that the Diamondback’s payroll in 2014 would be “well above where it was last season.” The Diamondbacks did not have any huge free agent contracts coming off the books, but at the same time they do not have any players who are expected to receive huge raises via arbitration. On top of this, the Diamondbacks did just shed $5 million in payroll for 2014 by dealing Heath Bell to the Rays. The Diamondbacks appear to have the payroll required to take on Price for the next two seasons, and could at least think about extending him.
After leading the NL West for most of the first half in 2013, the Diamondbacks fell off, largely in part due to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ historic hot streak. The Diamondbacks finished the season 81-81, good for second place in the West. Because they maintain the majority of their team for 2014, the Diamondbacks do have the ability to contend, especially if they add a player of Price’s caliber. They also have a solid young core in Paul Goldschmidt, Didi Gregorius, A.J. Pollock, and Adam Eaton, among others, many of whom the Diamondbacks believe will improve in 2014. The Dodgers are already highly favorited to win the world series next year, so Arizona will have a tall task to compete for the division title. Acquiring Price could instantly transform the Diamondbacks from fringe contender to a favorite for a wild card spot. The Diamondbacks certainly have the motivation to trade for Price.
The Diamondbacks also have a strong farm system that they could use to entice the Rays. Kevin Towers has been said to be very keen on keeping Archie Bradley (the second best pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo). However, Towers has never come out said Bradley is downright untouchable. With it being rumored that the Seattle Mariners might be willing to include Taijuan Walker (the best pitching prospect in baseball according to Mayo) in a potential Price trade, this could force the Diamondback’s hand. Competition in the trade market is the Rays’ dream, and having a bidding war between Seattle and Arizona could end very well for the Rays. The Diamondbacks will be very hesitant to deal Bradley, but competition could cause them to be more willing to deal him. Other than Bradley, the Diamondbacks still have a very strong farm system. On top of Bradley, top prospects include 3B Matt Davidson, SS Chris Owings, RHP Zeke Spruill, LHP Andrew Chafin, and C Stryker Trahan. The Diamondbacks young players that have recently graduated to the big leagues, which includes Eaton, A.J. Pollock, and Gregorius, might also be available. They certainly have more than what it will takes to pry Price away from the Rays, and the fact that they have not listed Bradley as untouchable shows that they would likely be willing to deal all of their prospects for the right return.
Here is how a potential Price-Diamondbacks trade could look. For this, I will include two scenarios, one where Bradley is included and one where he is not, since it is a toss-up whether or not the Diamondbacks would include him in a deal.
Bradley is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. He has legitimate number one potential with a mid-90’s fastball, a sharp curveball, and a changeup that shows potential as well. After tearing up Double-A in 2013, the Rays would probably start Bradley in Triple-A in 2014 due to their cautious nature with pitching prospects. That being said, he is not too far off from the big leagues, and could join the Rays’ rotation by the middle of next year. Trahan, a first round pick in 2012, is very raw, as catchers drafted out of high school so often are. But Trahan can flat out hit, and while he has a ton of work to do at catcher, he has the athleticism to learn the position and if not, his offense will carry him even if he moves elsewhere on the diamond. The Rays already have two strong catching prospects in Nick Ciuffo and Oscar Hernandez, but they won’t pass up the opportunity to add a player of Trahan’s caliber.
Perez is an interesting case. No team drafted him in 2012 due to a strong college commitment, but the Diamondbacks managed to sign him as an undrafted free agent when he had a change of heart. He has good strength and projection, but he is very raw and it will take some time to put everything together. Ahmed, meanwhile, was part of the Justin Upton deal with the Braves last offseason. After a strong 2012, Ahmed struggle a bit in 2013 at Double-A. That being said, the scrappy Ahmed still has the potential to be a defense-first shortstop or a solid utilityman when all is said and done.
Here the Rays are getting two very good young pitchers. Neither are up to Bradley’s caliber, but acquiring both would give the Rays two very promising starters. Delgado was included as part of the Justin Upton deal after being rated a top 100 prospect prior to 2011 and 2012. Delgado was solid in 2013, posting a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts and 1 relief appearance. Still just 23 years old, Delgado still has nowhere to go but up, and would slot into the Rays’ rotation immediately. Chafin was overshadowed by Bradley at Double-A in 2013, but he was still very good, posting a 2.85 ERA in 21 starts. He has a very good fastball-slider combination, and his ability will largely depend on the development of his changeup. The Rays are famous for being good at developing young pitcher’s changeups, so Chafin would fit well with the Rays.
Drury was also a part of the Justin Upton trade, and while he was largely unheralded, he put together a nice season as a 21 year old in Single-A. Drury is carried by his bat, which shows the ability to hit for a high average and decent power. He has yet to prove himself in the upper minors, but his bat has good potential. Munoz was a second rounder in 2012. He is very raw, but his size and tall frame allow for some power projection. He might end up as a third baseman, but if his tools can translate into results, he could be an average all-around player at third.
Both packages are impressive, but even though the Rays would be receiving more polished players in the second one, it is clear that the first one is superior with Bradley at the top. When push comes to shove, will the Diamondbacks be wililng to trade Bradley? That one question could mean everything as negotiations between Arizona and the Rays progress.
The Diamondbacks make a lot of sense for a David Price trade. They have the ability to take on payroll, the motivation to contend, and the prospects to get it done. The Rays will deal Price if they can get a solid return, and the Diamondbacks certainly have the ability to pay this price. If Andrew Friedman could get Archie Bradley, it would certainly be an exciting day for Rays fans. Keep tabs on the Diamondbacks, because if they are willing to trade Bradley, they will be major players in the Price sweepstakes.