LAKE BUENA VISTA — It's still all just talk, the idea of the Rays trading David Price, rumors and innuendo that the ace left-hander soon could be heading to the Mariners, Dodgers, Rangers or elsewhere.
Manager Joe Maddon is listening, presumably with better sources than the rest of us, and already has one word in mind for the possibility:
"You know, it's never a good thought to lose a player like that, the potential thought of losing a player like that," Maddon said during his winter meetings interview session.
"What I've heard is, obviously, what everybody else is hearing, there is a lot of conjecture and talk about it. When you lose a player of that magnitude, not just the fact that he's such a good pitcher, but this guy … matters a lot in the clubhouse and to the team.
"Having said all those things, then again, it's just how we have to operate within our little world. So if it were to happen, it's one of those, it's almost the word 'devastating' in a sense, but we have to recover from those kind of moments if it does actually occur."
Maddon, naturally, believes the Rays can withstand the loss, just as they did last offseason following the trade of James Shields and the departures of others before him.
He spoke confidently Monday of Alex Cobb stepping up and into the leadership void. And of Jake Odorizzi deserving the first shot at claiming the open rotation spot, with Alex Colome next, though raising the possibility that they would add a more experienced starter from the outside.
Though Price's future has been the primary topic of discussion — and tweeting — around the meetings, the Rays may still be early in the process, which fits with their deliberate process-oriented approach. Plus, with an organizational aversion to the winter meetings spotlight, it's less likely they would consummate a deal here anyway.
Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said only that he met with several teams Monday on several subjects, while one general manager who may have interest in Price said it's still early in the game.
"I haven't heard yet that he's actually out there to be had," Arizona's Kevin Towers said. "I think they will (talk about him), but I don't think right yet."
The Mariners continue to be the leading subject of speculation, though GM Jack Zduriencik claimed Monday they would not deal top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, who would seem to have to be part of the deal.
"Taijuan is a great piece for us,'' he said. "So right now we are very happy with Taijuan and I expect Taijuan to be with us."
And though the Rangers have been rumored, GM Jon Daniels said they are "probably not" in the market for a top starter and that "there doesn't appear to be a fit for us.''
Even if the Rays find a team willing to meet the expected high cost in terms of young talent, there may be another complicating factor. With Price heading to free agency after the 2015 season, Towers said most teams likely would want a window to try to negotiate a long-term deal.
"I'm sure the biggest fear for clubs is can you sign him … into his free-agent years," Towers said. "You're probably willing to give up the players if you think you've got an opportunity."
The Rays, though, may not want to play along. Friedman wouldn't answer specifically but said trades are hard enough to arrange "and when you start throwing a lot of other variables on top of trying to line up to make a trade, it obviously just adds more complexity. And so, simply said, our goal in making trades is to make it as simple as possible, and that's our approach."