Rays' loss to Brewers fuels David Price trade speculation

Rays starting pitcher David Price leaves the mound and heads off the field for what could be the last time in a Rays uniform after the final out of the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Rays starting pitcher David Price leaves the mound and heads off the field for what could be the last time in a Rays uniform after the final out of the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published July 31, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — One way or another, David Price will be involved in a trade today.

Either the ace lefty will be shipped to a contender for a stack of young talent or he'll get to swap the uncertainty that has been hanging over him for the chance to continue leading the Rays' improbable charge toward a playoff spot.

After Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Brewers that wasn't much of a potential farewell performance, Price said he expected to stay with the Rays.

"Absolutely," he said.

Manager Joe Maddon said the same of Price, suggesting the Rays hadn't found a team willing to meet their high price for the 28-year-old Cy Young Award winner.

"It takes two to dance, boys," Maddon said. "It takes a partner, and it takes a partner with some gumption and (who) wants to do something. If you can't find that partner, it isn't going to happen. So I don't know if there's a whole lot of folks out there like that these days."

The decision will be made by executive vice president Andrew Friedman.

And though a trade might seem unlikely, he was expected to continue discussing and considering dealing Price — and several other veterans, such as Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce — right up until the 4 p.m. deadline.

The market for Price, who can command a huge contract when he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season, was evolving. The Cardinals, who had been considered one of the prime possibilities, acquired right-hander Justin Masterson from the Indians on Wednesday without giving up their top prospect, outfielder Oscar Taveras.

The rival Red Sox were in active talks to deal their lefty ace, Jon Lester, and the Phillies hoped to be discussing lefty Cliff Lee, providing alternatives to Price. The Mariners remained in active talks with the Rays, with the Dodgers also expected to be involved. And other teams are expressing interest.

The prime factor in deciding whether to trade Price now or wait until the offseason is the potential return. But another is the Rays' chances to make the postseason with him. Wednesday's loss, though just their second in 13 games, dropped the Rays to eight games off the American League East lead 51/2 off the second wild card spot with 54 to play.

Price started Wednesday having fun with the situation, sending out a Twitter post at 7:39 a.m. that stopped radio show hosts and others mid sentence with its start:

"This is my last start for the Rays. … IN JULY!!!"

He wasn't in as light of a mood after giving up two runs in a 31-pitch second inning and four total over seven, ending his streaks of six wins and nine of allowing no more than three runs. (That the Rays were held to seven singles didn't help.)

"Just balls in the middle of the plate, stuff like that," Price said. "I didn't make pitches when I needed to there in the second inning. I walked two guys there."

As he has for the past couple of months, Price — who said he thought the trade deadline was Wednesday — said the potential of a trade, and of the game being his last time pitching at Tropicana Field and as a Ray, wasn't a distraction or a concern, nor would it be today, when he planned to play golf.

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"The last thing on my mind," he said.

When Price left the June 25 game against Pittsburgh in what at the time seemed like it might have been his last start as a Ray at the Trop, he tipped his cap and waved to the crowd. There was no goodbye moment Wednesday as he finished the seventh with 113 pitches, and Maddon didn't send him out to start the eighth.

Some of the Rays have been amused by the speculation.

"He's not getting traded," first baseman James Loney said. "So I don't know why everybody's talking about it; not right now."

There was a sense in some corners of the Rays clubhouse that Price, and others, might be dealt to benefit the team's long-term future but also an insistence they could remain competitive without Price.

Others took what might be the more realistic view.

"We need David," starter Jeremy Hellickson said. "We aren't going to get where we want to be without him. We need him. And I hope to see him Friday."

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.