Rays Tales: David Price trade must happen soon

Published June 22, 2014

How about this for a happy ending to what is becoming the David Price situation:

He walks off the mound triumphantly after throwing a complete game to beat the Pirates on Wednesday at the Trop then gets traded to a contender during the ensuing 10-day road trip?

It has become increasingly obvious that the Rays likely — if not absolutely, positively — are going to trade Price over the next 51/2 weeks until the July 31 deadline. They can't afford to keep him long term. They're not going to win with him this year (the thought that they would was part of the reason he wasn't dealt over the winter). And every five days they wait to trade him reduces his value because that means one fewer start he makes for his new team.

There's also this: Price's frustration with the Rays' overall situation — the team unexpectedly losing so much, the again constant trade speculation, his reluctantly accepting the reality that he's likely going to leave a place he truly loves — has become obvious daily. His media interviews have become painfully awkward. And hearing a clubhouse leader saying "We're the worst team in baseball" — albeit true record-wise — isn't exactly inspiring.

So — and we don't say this flippantly — now would be best for the Rays and for Price to make a deal as soon as possible.

The Rays have to have the right offer to proceed, and that's going to be the driving force more than any public perception or perceived pressure.

And it's not necessarily easy to find a team that has the right mix of premium young players, a need for an ace such as Price and the financial wherewithal to take him on. There's the remainder of his $14 million salary this year (though the Rays could eat some in the deal), $17 million to $20 million next and then free agency, with Felix Hernandez's seven-year, $175 million deal in Seattle a potential marker.

Also, the trade partner preferably is in the National League. Or at least not in the American League East, which could cross several potential candidates off the list.

The Cardinals have been watching the Rays closely recently, the Giants and Dodgers (whom many around baseball consider the favorites for Price) at times. The Braves, especially after Gavin Floyd's injury, seem like a possibility, and maybe there's a surprise candidate, such as the Marlins, who also were scouting Price on Friday. Among other AL teams, the Angels, A's and Indians seem likely candidates.

ESPN's well-connected Jim Bowden recently suggested five possible trades for Price: to the Angels, Blue Jays, White Sox, Yankees and Braves.

As for the possibility of the Rays dealing with an AL East team, the best guess is that it's not an absolute impossibility, but it likely would require an additional premium for the Rays to even consider a deal, which is an intriguing thought given interest from the Jays (who have promising prospects) and Yankees (who don't have as many).

There also could be a less obvious team that sees Price as a short-term upgrade, with plans to flip him in the offseason to recoup what it would give up.

Another factor in the timing of a trade is the rest of the top-starter market. The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and the Phillies' Cliff Lee (when healthy) also are expected to be dealt.

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Despite allowing a major-league-most 116 hits (and an AL-high 16 homers) and with a 5-7 record, a 3.81 ERA and a slight dropoff in velocity, Price is actually pitching very well.

"He's mentioned that he's probably pitching as good as he can, and I think he has," manager Joe Maddon said Friday.

Other numbers support that, starting with Price's remarkable, and potentially historic, ratio of 133 strikeouts to 13 walks (one intentional) to advanced metrics such as a 3.03 FIP (fielding independent pitching, which measures what a pitcher's ERA would be given average luck on balls in play), better than what he had in his 2012 Cy Young Award-winning season.

There no doubt there will be a firm market for Price. The question is whether the Rays can find what they would consider the right deal, or at least a good-enough one. Or they, too, can always wait until the offseason, though that could make for a long summer.

After facing the Pirates, Price is set to make his next two starts at New York and Detroit, then one more at home before the All-Star Game, which he might pitch his way into.

It's certainly possible that Wednesday could be Price's farewell performance at the Trop. That's if he's still here by then.

What could Price yield?

Quantity, such as a five-for-one deal, is a possibility if the Rays deal ace LHP David Price, but they seem more likely to go for quality, seeking a couple of premium prospects to restock their farm system or cost-controlled young big-leaguers. They could make a bigger deal by including INF/OF Ben Zobrist, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Grant Balfour or another player (1B James Loney? CF Desmond Jennings?) if they opt to blow up their present plan. As a rough framework, here are potential deals for Price with the five teams former big-league GM Jim Bowden considers in his column "most likely" to trade for him:

Angels: 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Alex Yarbrough

Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Alberto Tirado

White Sox: 2B Micah Johnson, RHP Erik Johnson, RHP Chris Beck

Yankees: C Gary Sanchez, RHP Luis Severino, C Peter O'Brien

Braves: LHP Alex Wood, RHP Lucas Sims, additional pitching prospect

Short stops

• As INF Logan Forsythe continues to struggle, might he not be better off playing regularly and rebuilding his confidence in Triple A? And might the Rays be better off with lefty-swinging INF Cole Figueroa?

• Today looks to be a key start for LHP Erik Bedard and rehabilitating RHP Jeremy Hellickson.

• Did ESPN really not have a better option than making Rays-Tigers its July 6 Sunday night game?

Rays rumblings

Per Baseball America, the Rays are "looking like strong favorites" to sign elite Dominican SS prospect Adrian Rondon, who is expected to get around $3 million after July 7, when he turns 16. … Rafaela Amador — who, for what it's worth, has serious Tampa connections — was hired to head corporate communications. … Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi's streak of working 2,326 regular-season games over 16 seasons ended Wednesday because he was on jury duty. … Plant High OF Kyle Tucker is among players Baseball America says could be atop the 2015 draft in which the Rays may have the first pick. … Manager Joe Maddon invited 8-year-old Gavin Lambert of New Port Richey, who won the Freddie Solomon Courage Award at last week's Tampa Bay Sports Commission's Sneaker Soiree honoring local sports, to spend a day as a Ray. … 3B Evan Longoria wrote an interesting piece on youth baseball for ex-Ray Gabe Kapler's … Tickets are available for Wednesday's "Rays on the Runway" event; see … 1B Casey Gillaspie, this year's top draft pick, was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America for his season at Wichita State. … 2012 minor-league player of the year Todd Glaesmann, who retired shortly after being traded to Arizona in the Heath Bell deal, is now back playing in the D'backs' system.

Got a minute? Kevin Kiermaier

Best meal you can make? Steak and my green bean casserole. It's phenomenal.

Must-see TV? True Detective.

Karaoke song if you had to? Remix of Ignition, by R. Kelly. I've done that one a few times.

Food you hate? Cottage cheese and cole slaw literally make me get the chills looking at them.

Celebrity crush? Jana Kramer. She's an up-and-coming country singer. And she's single.