The overarching premise is simple: to do what's best for the organization. But the Rays' decision on trading ace David Price will be a complex, angst-ridden, difficult evaluation, given both present-day implications and the potential that the outcome could carry significant impact — positive or negative — for seasons to come.
Talking to nearly a dozen general managers who have been on one side or the other of similar discussions, two themes quickly emerge:
• There is no obvious precedent or right answer, as the Rays have to factor in their current and specific circumstances.
• Given their past decisions, such as deals for Matt Garza and James Shields, odds are the Rays will make the right call.
"I think every organization is faced with a different set of circumstances because of resources," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, who let star Albert Pujols leave as a free agent. "The one thing all organizations sort of have to ask themselves is, could this create a paralysis if we do 'X.' I think the more successful or the more disciplined organizations tend to avoid making those mistakes.
"So now the bigger question is how do you optimize your current asset. And I certainly think Tampa Bay is very capable of making those decisions. They seem very good at it. … (They are) one of the best at understanding what set of lenses to look through."
The Rays, who try to make every decision with short- and long-term perspective, will have to weigh several factors, starting with what they are offered, what are their chances of winning with and without Price and what are the financial ramifications of Price's projected $13 million salary this coming season and his pending 2016 free agency.
"No question any time you trade a player like that, those are difficult decisions," said Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro, who traded for, then traded away, then re-signed lefty Cliff Lee. "But that's what our jobs are. We have a lot of difficult decisions to make."
Especially in the kind of deal the Rays likely would make for Price, 28, trading a star for younger players or prospects.
"It's hard, because usually in our situation you're trading a known for unknowns, so there is a risk in the transaction," said Oakland GM Billy Beane, who has traded several elite pitchers. "You're changing the continuity for your fans. You've ruined a lot of kids' jerseys. I've lived it many times.
"That being said, it's imperative that our markets stay fluid. … In our markets, I'll speak for ourselves, we can't just stay stagnant. Otherwise when we hit bottom, we'll hit with a thud."
A sampling of GMs provided strong endorsement for Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman's past work.
"They've done an awful good job," said Minnesota's Terry Ryan. "They've got a pretty good grasp on what they're doing. … They've made a lot of good choices over there. There's a lot of us that envy what they're doing."
The Rangers are considered, with the Dodgers, among the teams expected to be most interested in and positioned to get Price.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels and Friedman are good enough friends that not only should it make for interesting negotiations, it allows Daniels to poke fun when asked how he thinks Friedman will handle the decision.
"Wildly irresponsibly," Daniels said. "When you look at the different ways to build a club and you look at some of the rules in place as far as amateur acquisition, Tampa has kind of carved out a different way to go about it with some really impactful trades. …
"Whatever they choose to do, I think they've had success and I'm sure they're prepared for it. But I hope they screw it up."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]
Rays add four to roster
ST. PETERSBURG — Four players were added to the Rays 40-man roster Wednesday to protect them from being taken in next month's Rule 5 draft: infielder Vince Belnome and pitchers Jesse Hahn, C.J. Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates.
Belnome, 25, a lefty hitter who can play first and third, was the team MVP at Triple-A Durham and an International League All-Star, hitting .300 with eight homers and 67 RBIs in 127 games.
Riefenhauser, a 23-year-old lefty, had a 1.22 ERA in 51 appearances between Double-A Montgomery and Durham. Yates, 26, was 3-2 with 20 saves and a 1.90 ERA for the Bulls. Hahn, a 24-year-old recovering from arm issues, was 2-1, 2.15 in 19 starts for Class A Charlotte.
Also, the Rays officially announced the signings of pitchers Mark Lowe, Victor Mateo and San Runion to minor-league deals.
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer