The Tampa Bay Rays have a habit of jettisoning their own young-ish players before they become too expensive.
Now, they're likely about to do it with their ace left-hander, David Price.
Heeeeeeyyyyyyy... you know who has a need for a starting pitcher and a lot of money to spend???
Fellow TGP writer Joecatz did a very good job running down the reasons why a trade for Price doesn't make sense for the Phillies last week...
...I don't think Ruben can even start a discussion for Price without giving up Dom Brown plus others at the very least. That's the beginning and end of that discussion. Without Brown, It costs Biddle, Ruf, a few players to be named later, Cesar Hernandez... Keep going here, cause I can't find a player in the organization that's a fit for the Rays that can center a deal better than 20 other teams.
The Phillies believe that they're close enough to compete in 2014 after a lousy 2013, and with a new television deal coming soon, Philadelphia has good motivation to put out a solid team for as long as possible.
The decline of Roy Halladay has weakened the rotation -- the team's biggest strength during its mini-dynasty -- and with no Zack Greinke type of options available in free agency this year, Price is the best reasonably attainable improvement the Phils can make. Tropicana Field is a more comfortable home for Biddle -- he doesn't succeed by blowing away batters, and can sometimes get in trouble with command -- and while Joseph fits a need for the Phillies, a stopgap catcher can be found in free agency.
Obviously, the Phils could use David Price to anchor their rotation. But as Joe mentioned, the parameters outlined in the deal above don't seem realistic.
Biddle is the team's best pitching prospect, so it makes sense he'd be in this deal. But Biddle is projected as a #3-type starter, with #2-upside. His 2013 season in Reading was up-and-down. Quinn is a good prospect, and the Phils seem intent on keeping the young blazer at shortstop, although he may end up being a center fielder at some point. Tommy Joseph's inclusion doesn't make sense here, mainly because he's still dealing with concussion issues and may not even be a catcher anymore. And Ethan Martin is a nice-looking, back-end bullpen piece, so he'd be tough to give up.
But is this really enough for Tampa? Wouldn't they require Maikel Franco or Dom Brown for Price? Couldn't Texas offer more? Szymborski suggests the Rangers trade 2B Rougned Odor, 3B Joey Gallo and RHP Connor Sadzeck for him. Odor is a very good infield prospect, and Texas has a lot of those at the moment. Gallo, at just 19, hit 40 homers in Class A last year, and Sadzeck is a guy with lots of ability but also has Phillippe Aumont-level command issues.
It seems to me Szymborski is under-valuing what Tampa could expect to get in return for their ace left-hander.
Aside from the cost in prospects and young players, there are two other factors to weigh when considering a trade for Price.
He made just over $10 million this year. He still has two more rounds of arbitration left, in which he will see significant raises in each, provided he stays healthy and somewhat productive. Is $14-15 million a ridiculous number for the 2014 season? And what about 2015? Could he get $20 million?
And there is one other factor. His stuff.
Price will pitch next year at 28 years old, so, he's still very young. And while he didn't have as good a season as his Cy Young season of 2012, he still posted a 3.33 ERA, led the American League in complete games (4), had a WHIP of 1.098, and led the AL in SO/BB at 5.59.
But for the first time since his first full season in the Majors, 2009, he failed to log more than 200 innings (186.2). And perhaps more importantly, his stuff appeared to be down just a bit this year.
Price threw his four-seam fastball a career-low 54% of the time last year. In 2012, it was 60.6% and it was over 70% the three years before that. And while his four-seamer still averaged a more-than-capable 93.4 mph, that was down from the 95.5 he averaged last year, and the 94.7 and 95.3 of the two previous years.
Perhaps it was just a one-year anomaly. But perhaps it's not.
Szymborski's trade suggestion for Price is not terribly costly. I could stomach giving up Biddle, Quinn, Joseph and Martin for Price. But some of those prospects might be better used to get a right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat like Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Yoenis Cespedes, or by some miracle from the heavens, Giancarlo Stanton.
If the Phillies go the free agent route for the outfield (think Jacoby Ellsbury or, my personal preference, Curtis Granderson), then perhaps a deal like the one Szymborski outlined makes sense. But not if it costs Domonic Brown or Maikel Franco, which is likely what it would take to land him.