Price decision complicates Rays' offseason

In trading David Price — or anyone else — the Rays have to maximize their return.
In trading David Price — or anyone else — the Rays have to maximize their return.
Published Nov. 2, 2013

With options on 2B Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar exercised, now the Rays' offseason only gets harder.

They have nine free agents — plus pending option decisions on OF David DeJesus and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo — and 10 arbitration-eligibles, built-in raises for several players, and potentially no increase in a payroll that was around $61 million.

And here's where it really gets complicated:

Making decisions and filling holes starting now with the possibility of a landscape-changing trade of LHP David Price coming later.

Let's just say, hypothetically, they have a chance to re-sign James Loney or acquire another first baseman in the next week or two. Do they do that when there's speculation the Angels will come hard for Price and would offer Mark Trumbo, who could be a longer-term answer at first?

The same applies with leftfield, catcher and other holes. Already, a half-dozen teams, topped by the Dodgers and Rangers, have been identified in media reports as being "in" on Price, and it would be a shock if there aren't a dozen more between next week's GM meetings and the Dec. 8-12 winter meetings.

In theory, the Rays have to make each decision, as executive VP Andrew Friedman likes to say, "in a vacuum." But in trading Price — or anyone else — they have to maximize their return and wouldn't be best served to pass on a better player because they already filled that spot. Conversely, they can't wait too long to fill holes in case they don't deal Price, or get only prospects back.

While not speaking directly to the possibility of a Price trade, Friedman acknowledged the potential complications of the offseason agenda.

"The timing of making decisions is by far the trickiest part of the offseason," he said. "We have to utilize all the information we have accumulated to that point to make the best decision possible while also appreciating the trickle-down effect of each move."

ZIGGY STARDUST: Best wishes to Jeff Ziegler, who leaves the Rays after 15 seasons as travel director, taking a job with Hillsborough County. Among many memorable moments, Ziegler was most appreciated for his handling of the 2008 World Series Game 5 postponement in Philadelphia by getting the team settled, comfortably, in Wilmington, Del.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: The folks at project free-agent closer Fernando Rodney to get a two-year, $18 million deal, which, if anywhere close, would quickly end any chance of returning. … OF Wil Myers and RHP Chris Archer are finalists, along with Detroit SS Jose Iglesias, for the Players Choice Outstanding Rookie award to be announced Monday. … The BBWAA award finalists are revealed Tuesday, with the AL rookie of the year announced Nov. 11. … As projected, C Jose Lobaton and LHP Jake McGee qualified for an additional "Super 2" year of arbitration eligibility, McGee by five days. … The online gambling site has the Rays at 16-1 to win the 2014 Series; the Dodgers are 7-1, the Tigers 9-1, the Red Sox and others 10-1.