It’s been the hot topic not only in the Sunshine State since the Hot Stove season began this winter, but around all of baseball in the same time span–the rumors, and (at times) expectations circling around David Price and his parting ways with the only professional baseball team he has ever known. However, with every rumor coming and going proving to be just that, a rumor, it seems more and more likely the Rays will hold on to their franchise southpaw, at least until the offseason. And that’s exactly what should happen.
Let’s start by looking at the numbers. Price leads the Rays’ rotation in just about every category–most starts, the best rotation record (10-7), the lowest ERA (3.06), most strikeouts, fewest walks, the only Ray to record a complete game (of which he has two)…I could go on, but it all encompasses the same thing: the numbers show exactly what they’re supposed to from an ace.
Now to David Price himself. In terms of contract, he is eligible for arbitration after this year, and a free agent the following off season in 2016. He’s owed $14 million for this season, which is more than half of what the next closest Ray, Evan Longoria, is owed. Even with the $14 million figure, however, the Rays are still bottom 10 in the league in total payroll, coming in at 24th. They can afford to keep Price around, if only for just the rest of the year. However, what the Rays can’t afford to do is continue to be one of, if not the, hottest team in baseball days, weeks and months after trading away a pitcher the caliber of Price. He is a former first overall pick that has done more than was asked for him, making four All-Star teams and winning a Cy Young award. Not only will the Rays be losing a familiar face, but they’ll be losing a veteran attitude and mindset that will prove to be invaluable come late September and (hopefully) October.
Finally, there’s the issue of an irreplaceable spot in the rotation. Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi have all shown tremendous promise, and are arms to get excited about for the future, but aren’t ready to put an entire staff on their shoulders as the ace. Jeremy Hellickson will be back soon, which would leave the question as who the fifth starter would be, and there really isn’t a better or even a serviceable option. Essentially, the two options would be the much inferior Erik Bedard or the young gun Alex Colome, who hasn’t been able to show much in terms of consistency with his time in the big club and down at Triple-A Durham. Can the Rays really go with either pitcher instead of Price without it being a concession of defeat? There is no hotshot pitching prospect set to replace Price like Hellickson did with Matt Garza and Archer did with James Shields. The savior isn’t down at Durham–he is already in the rotation in the form of David Price.
If right now was like still mid-May, when the Rays were double-digits out of first place and all hope was seemingly lost, Price would a goner. But, this season is far from over and the Rays very much have a chance. For now, the best thing is to keep the pieces where they are. It’s too much to worry about winning and who will fill the fifth roster spot right now. Let that be Hot Stove 2015 problems after we are still in awe over what the Rays’ 2014 season became.