ST. PETERSBURG — It may be no consolation, but David Price goes into today's start at least knowing there soon will be resolution on his trade status with Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals.
"It's here, so I guess we'll have some answers here in the next couple of days," Price said Tuesday. "And we'll see how it goes."
As much as the Rays' march back into playoff contention has made what seemed an obvious decision more difficult, team officials remain open to dealing their ace and likely will take it to the deadline.
Price reiterated Tuesday that he wants to stay and has not let the speculation be a distraction, focusing on trying "to give my team a chance to win every fifth day, and hopefully it's in a Rays uniform in two starts."
He could certainly help that cause with another strong outing today — pitching, in a way, to stay — as a win would cap a remarkable run by the Rays to get back to .500 at 54-54 after being 18 games under, at 24-42, after play on June 10.
Price's absence from the dugout Tuesday night only fueled speculation but was not trade-related; with today's game starting at 12:10, he went home early. And manager Joe Maddon said after Tuesday's game that Price "absolutely" is starting today.
The determining factor, as in most trades, will be what the Rays get offered. The chatter is they're seeking at least two high-end prospects/young players with impact potential, and their improved play provides no reason to discount it.
The Cardinals, Dodgers and Mariners have been most rumored to be interested, but there are other teams (Pirates? Cubs?) involved. The Red Sox's seemingly imminent trade of their own lefty ace, Jon Lester, could impact the Price market. ESPN's Gordon Edes reported there are six teams in on Lester: Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, Athletics
As an example of what the Rays might be able to get, USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggested Tuesday that the Cards could offer outfielder Oscar Taveras, starter Shelby Miller and a compensation draft pick.
Another key issue is the Rays' chance of winning the American League East title (and being in a best-of-five playoff) rather than getting the second wild card (and one road game, likely on the West Coast). That makes the deficit behind first-place Baltimore, which remained at seven games after the Orioles won in 12 innings Tuesday , a bigger deal than being 41/2 behind Toronto for the second wild card. Baseball Prospectus gives the Rays only a 6.8 percent chance of winning the division.
Also a factor: how much less the Rays think they'd get for Price by waiting until the winter, when the acquiring team gets him for only one season rather than two pennant races. Some estimate there could be a 50 percent reduction.
And how the trade would be perceived, especially in the Rays' own clubhouse, given how hard they have battled to get back in the race and how much Maddon believes they can make it to the playoffs. One way to offset that would be getting back a pitcher who could step into the rotation, with team officials emphasizing their need to restock for the future as part of their business model while claiming that they can still stay in the race for a playoff spot.
Infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist also remains the subject of trade speculation, especially with the Mariners, who have been and Tuesday still were heavily scouting the Rays minor-league system.
Also of note, the Rays this week have reportedly been scouting the Yankees Double-A team, which has some of their top prospects, though it seems unlikely they would send Price to a division opponent.