David Price Isn’t the Type of Pitcher You Trade
By Peter M. Gordon
The Rays are a patient organization. They analyze their situation, create a plan, and stick with it. Any Rays fan that sat through on and a half years of Pat Burrell as DH can attest to the team’s patience and willingness to stick with a plan.
That’s not to say the team can’t adjust to circumstances. After bringing up Ben Zobrist as a utility man for the 2008 pennant run, they saw enough of him to trade Akinori Iwamura, their second baseman, to create a spot for Zobrist. The Rays front office bet big on making a run for the pennant this year. They not only signed several key players like James Loney, Yunel Escobar, David DeJesus, and Chris Archer to-long term deals, but also they went against all the rumors and kept David Price. After an offseason like that, Rays management, fans, and many commentators, thought the Rays would win the AL East and just maybe the World Series.
We know the season hasn’t gone the way they planned. Injuries and ineffectiveness caused the Rays to bring up young pitchers like Brad Boxberger and Kirby Yates, and position players like catcher Curt Casali and “the Outlaw” Kevin Kiermaier. These young players ignited a spark that included better performances from Rays stars like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. The Rays are the hottest team in the majors, with seven wins in a row. They’ve moved within 7.5 games of the AL East lead, and within 4.5 of a wild card slot. The Rays have a long way to go, but they are much closer to fulfilling the front office’s expectations than they were a month ago.
That’s why they won’t trade David Price this year. Of course they will listen to offers–that’s Andrew Friedman’s job as Executive VP of Baseball Operations. However, the Rays’ plan for this year was to go all out to win the pennant, and based on past experience they will stick to that plan as long as there’s a good chance it will work out.
There’s also another reason: David Price is not just one of the best pitchers today–he may be one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Price is 28 this season. I compared his stats so far with those of two Hall of Fame pitchers, Tom Seaver, my personal hero growing up, and Greg Maddux, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. Price has not finished the season, yet, but as of July 24 he’s won 81 games and lost 46 for a .638 winning percentage. He’s won one Cy Young award, finished second another year, averages 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.45 strikeout to walk ratio.
Tom Seaver turned 28 during the 1973 season. He was the best pitcher on the team from the day he started in 1967, and his time with the team included the Miracle Mets of 1969 and the “You Gotta Believe” Mets in 1973. Seaver won many more games than Price, at a time when starters were still expected to finish their games, but his winning percentage was virtually the same. Seaver’s won-loss record was 135-76, good for a .640 winning percentage, with 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.36 strikeout to walk ratio. Seaver won two Cy Young Awards, one in each of the Mets’ pennant winning seasons. Maddux, meanwhile, turned 28 in 1994. After that season, his record was 131-91 for a .590 winning percentage, a 3.02 ERA, 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.90 strikeout to walk ratio. Maddux won two Cy Young awards, and would win a third when he was 29.
Of course, Price still has to prove over his career that he’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. However, compared to Maddux and Seaver at the same age, Price can be said to be on his way to a career that will be remembered for a long time. Those quality players are rare, and worth holding on to even at a high cost. The Rays’ front office and the analysts in their basement can look up these stats, and more, as easily as I can. They know David Price’s value and his potential place in baseball history. And they want to win this year. Combine the Rays’ performance with Price’s real value, and only a once in a lifetime offer will entice the Rays to trade him. If the Angels offer Mike Trout, the Rays will consider it. But short of an offer like that, David Price will finish the year with the Rays. If you receive the opportunity to have a Hall of Fame pitcher in his prime for one more season, you take it.