People have speculating for years about possible trade packages the Tampa Bay Rays will receive for David Price. People will continue to do so right until a deal actually happens or Price hits free agency. Right now, however, we have an actual, somewhat official trade framework. Here is the package that the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be ready to offer David Price, which was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today and determined to have some validity by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
It is worth noting that Taveras, Miller, and the pick may not represent the Cardinals’ final offer. To complete the package, St. Louis could very well add a low minors player with upside like Rowan Wick or a talented player who hasn’t lived up to his prospect hype like Patrick Wisdom. They could also be swayed to add another, more legitimate prospect if their division rival Pittsburgh Pirates acquire Jon Lester. All of that being said, let’s go through the pieces in the hypothetical deal above and assess whether it would make sense for the Rays to accept a package like that.
David Price: Price, 28, is 11-7 with a 3.08 ERA and an insane 183-21 strikeout to walk ratio in 163.2 innings pitched this season. The strikeouts and innings pitched both lead the major leagues. Price is a true ace who has never pitched better than this–he is 6-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his last seven starts, completing eight innings in all but one of them. The opportunity to land a huge return for him is there, and the Rays have enough pitching depth that losing him would not derail their playoff hopes entirely. However can the Rays really trade their best pitcher with their team playing this well?
Oscar Taveras: Taveras, 22, is not off to the flashiest start to his big league career, hitting to a .217/.247/.283 line in his first 97 MLB plate appearances as a part-time player for the Cardinals. Nevertheless, 97 inconsistent plate appearances doesn’t undermine his talent. Taveras has been universally regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball and a potential superstar right fielder, and it’s not difficult to see why. Taveras features tremendous bat speed and raw power without strikeouts being a major part of his game, a combination that you do not see very often. Taveras would probably head to Triple-A for a while if the Rays acquired him, but he would give them an outfield prospect just as good as Wil Myers was when they acquired him and quite possibly better.
Shelby Miller: Miller, 23, has electric stuff, hitting the mid-90’s with his fastball to go along with a curveball, cutter, and changeup, but his results have been extremely inconsistent the last three years. Miller went from struggling at Triple-A in 2012 to finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, but this season has seen him trend in the wrong direction again. His peripherals have fallen apart (5.9 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, and 1.0 HR/9) even if his ERA (4.20) isn’t such a disaster, and we can’t simply gloss over that. The Cardinals even moved him to the bullpen recently for a time to try to get him on track. You have to love Miller’s stuff–and how the Rays could help him improve–but his inconsistency and lack of a swing-and-miss secondary pitch behind his fastball are reasons for concern. Even if you want to rip Miller apart, though, he is still a 23 year old with number two starter potential that has already shown effectiveness for a complete big league season.
Competitive Balance Round A Pick: This pick is significant. The Cleveland Indians, who received the same pick in the Competitive Balance Lottery last season that the Cardinals hold now, ended up with the 38th overall selection in the draft. That could move up or down slightly based on how many free agents reject qualifying offers and sign with other teams, but it will be an early pick no matter what. We obviously don’t know who the Rays would take, but we are talking about a potential top prospect, albeit one years away from the major leagues.
The way I’m thinking about this trade is that it’s like the James Shields-Wil Myers trade, only with a few key differences. The Rays don’t need to put in a Wade Davis type because of the difference between Price and Shields, Miller has more upside and big league experience than Odorizzi did at the time, and there is no Mike Montgomery in the deal yet. The Competitive Balance pick is essentially the Patrick Leonard of the deal thanks to the upside involved, but also all the unknowns. We thought that the Myers trade was a steal for the Rays at the time, but this could be an even better version of the return from that deal. If the Rays could get another prospect or two from St. Louis in addition to Taveras, Miller, and the draft pick, it would be extremely difficult to turn it down. What do you think? Should the Rays accept such a trade offer?