Why David Price’s Trade Value Won’t Eclipse What Rays Think of Him

By Robbie Knopf

The Tampa Bay Rays have made David Price potentially available in a trade. Yet right now, he is still a Ray, and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. Teams are interested, but not nearly interested enough to meet the Rays’ demands, and each passing day makes it more likely that Price will be taking the ball for the Rays on Opening Day. Why is it so difficult to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball?

David Price is more valuable to the Rays than any other team in baseball. The reason is simple: the Rays know Price and know just how good he can be. When they look at Price, they see the pitcher who has been their ace the last four years and led them to victory after victory. They see the pitcher who came out of nowhere to deliver an electrifying performance in the 2008 postseason and then came through with exactly the type of game everyone was expecting to lead the Rays past the Texas Rangers this year. They see a pitcher who has matured so much since his career began and has passed along his knowledge to the younger pitchers on the staff. To the Rays, Price is not just an ace, he is their ace. To the rest of baseball, he is simply an asset to be acquired, and like every other player in baseball, he has his flaws.

After his Cy Young season in 2012, Price fought through his struggles this season. He got off to a terrible start with his velocity going down, and then he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a triceps injury. That series of events was especially concerning given the type of pitcher that Price is. Price has achieved dominant results, but he has always been very dependent on his fastball as his secondary offerings have not quite come along as hoped. His cutter can be effective against right-handed batters and his changeup and curveball can both have their moments, but there is no dominant secondary pitch in Price’s repertoire to pair with his overbearing fastball. Price rebounded in resounding fashion in the second half, but teams looking to acquire him see a pitcher with declining velocity, and that decline could be both a sign of both potential injury and a possible downtick in performance. With the cost to acquire Price being a king’s ransom of prospects and young players, teams have every reason to question him and make sure he is a worthwhile investment. It is not so hard for them to find reasons they should not be so enthusiastic about a possible acquisition.

There are two separate dynamics preventing the Rays from getting the offers they were hoping for in exchange for David Price. No team wants to deal two or more top prospects for a player they may only have for two years and no one views Price as highly as the Rays do after his injury and decline in velocity. If a trade is going to materialize, either a suitor for Price has become more desperate or the Rays have to lower their demands. Either may happen before the offseason is through, but until then we will just have to wait.