Whenever we think about the return the Rays will get for David Price, there is always one type of player that comes to mind: a nearly big league-ready prospect among the most highly-touted in baseball poised to make his presence felt before long. The Rays received a player fitting that exact description in the James Shields trade–Wil Myers–and with Price an even better pitcher, it is hard to imagine the Rays receiving anything less. However, just because that is the precedent set by Shields does not mean the Rays have to follow that strategy to the letter again. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance, have two excellent prospects in Corey Seager and Julio Urias that could interest the Rays, and while they are much farther from the big leagues, packaging both of them together with another good prospect like Joc Pederson could lead to an offer as good as any the Rays will receive. One major league general manager told Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers could actually be in a great position to land Price for such a return. But Seager and Urias are both so talented, would the Rays be willing to accept prospects who will take longer to develop in exchange for their ace?
Even if David Price is departing, how desperate are the Rays to bolster their current roster? They are currently in need of a first baseman and designated hitter, but that is pretty much it. At every other infield position and all three outfield slots, the Rays’ projected starter is under team control for at least two more years. Evan Longoria is signed forever, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings are still pre-arbitration, David DeJesus and Ryan Hanigan signed three-year extensions, and Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar have two more years left on the extensions they signed previously. On the starting pitching front, the Rays have options on Matt Moore until 2019, Chris Archer will not be a free agent until then as well, Alex Cobb won’t be eligible until free agency until following the 2017 season, and Jeremy Hellickson has three years left under control as an arbitration-eligible player. For the Rays’ fifth spot in their rotation, the Rays have four more controllable options: Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery, and Enny Romero. Meanwhile in the bullpen, plenty of players will always come and go but the Rays actually have several late-inning arms under team control for a long time now in Alex Torres, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta. Find this team another bat or two, and they could be primed to keep their current group of players minus Price together for the next two years. Why do they need another big league-ready prospect?
There is a big difference between depth and talent, and the Rays realize that. If the Rays acquire a prospect with more ability than a player they have on their roster, it is only a matter of time before the prospect wins out. Just as important, though, is that describing a prospect as “big league-ready” is not just a statement on his estimated time of arrival in the major leagues but also the amount of risk he carries. Prospects in the lower minors, no matter how much they tantalize you with their potential, carry more risk than those that have proven themselves at higher levels. Even if Corey Seager and Julio Urias are every bit as talented as the other players the Rays will hear as the headliners for offers, the fact that they are less experienced makes their value significantly less. That does not mean that the Dodgers could not build the package that nets them Price around Seager and Urias, but the additional risk that comes with them would necessitate Los Angeles to give up both of them and more to complete the deal, and that may take them beyond their comfort zone. The Rays have no need to acquire big league-ready prospects in exchange for David Price, but the lesser risk that comes along with them makes creating a package the Rays would consider a much easier task.