Price's pluses to Rays outweigh trade value

Don't do it.

Not now. Not yet.

I'm talking to the Rays and I'm talking about David Price.

They are going to trade their ace pitcher sooner or later. I vote for later. Like sometime next season, maybe even next year.

But not now.

The Rays have to trade him eventually because they can't afford him. I get that.

I also understand the argument for trading him now. His value might never be higher than it is at this moment.

More teams are interested today than would be next June. If you wait, Price could get hurt. Maybe he gets off to a bad start. Either way, his trade value goes down.

All valid points, all reasons for swallowing hard and pulling the trigger on a deal.

So why wait?

Because Price helps you win. Now. Quite frankly, the Rays need him to win now. And isn't that what it's all about — winning?

Evan Longoria is in his prime. So is Ben Zobrist. Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings are young, but good. The Rays are a playoff team. They are certainly in the conversation for a World Series.

This is their window and such windows don't last long, especially when you pinch pennies like the Rays. You have to take advantage of the rare chances you get and dealing Price, especially for prospects, weakens the Rays in the short term.

When the Rays traded pitcher James Shields a year ago for several prospects, including eventual rookie of the year Myers, they did so knowing their pitching staff was fully stocked. You can't say the same thing now.

A big reason why is the alarming regression of Jeremy Hellickson. He stepped so far back last season that you have to be concerned about his effectiveness going forward.

Matt Moore won 17 games last season, but he just seems too wild and too flaky to convince me he is ready to take over as the staff's ace in what will be just his third full season.

Like Hellickson a year ago, Chris Archer seems to have a bright future, but let's not rush Archer to the front of the rotation just yet. He's only 25 and still pitches and acts like a kid. He has only won 12 games in the big leagues.

Alex Cobb? Okay, that's a future ace and, one could argue, the Rays' best pitcher last season.

So if the Rays trade Price, you have a staff of Moore, Cobb, Archer, Hellickson and an unknown fifth starter, probably a journeyman or a youngster. That's assuming you don't get a pitcher in return for Price.

Is that a staff that can win a division? Is that a staff that can shut down the world champion Red Sox or the heavy-hitting Yankees?

I don't think it is and that is why I would be hesitant to trade Price.

The Rays' way of winning hasn't changed. It's still predicated on pitching and defense. Trading your best pitcher, who happens to be one of the best in baseball, doesn't jibe with how the Rays win games. The moment the Rays trade Price, they almost assuredly will become a weaker pitching staff. And a weaker staff means a weaker team.

Take last season. Price was ineffective or hurt for much of the first half. Overall, he won just 10 games. Still, the Rays won 92 and made the playoffs, lending credence to the argument that trading Price really wouldn't be that big of a deal.

But look a little closer at last season. Price returned from injury in July as a renewed pitcher and went on a 5-1 run with four complete games over seven starts. During that stretch, the Rays went 20-6. The point? When Price was at his best, the Rays were at their best. He led the way by winning games and preserving bullpens.

I say keep him for now. If next season gets off to a bumpy start and the postseason doesn't seem possible, then deal him. If the Rays are in the hunt, keep him, try to win a championship and worry about trading him another day.

But I also will say this: I trust Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman to do the right thing, even if it means trading Price now. Friedman's track record is just too good to question. Every time the Rays have been in this situation, Friedman has done the right thing.

He didn't trade Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton as free agency approached. The Rays won with those players and haven't been haunted by their departures. On the other hand, he traded Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and, especially, Shields at the perfect times. In each case, he acquired valuable parts that have kept the small-market Rays in contention.

This is how the front office has to operate to keep Tampa Bay near the top of the majors on a shoestring budget and that's the shame in all of this.

Every offseason, it's the same. The Red Sox and Yankees and Tigers and Rangers write fat checks for big-name free agents, while the Rays sift through discount racks and trade today's stars for what they hope are future stars.

It's all in an effort to help the Rays win a championship someday. That someday could be next season.

But only if David Price is still wearing a Rays uniform.

Price's pluses to Rays outweigh trade value 12/09/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 9, 2013 10:36pm]

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