In his Friday morning column, ESPN’s Buster Olney brings up an interesting idea that, unlike the American League MVP debate and the Melky Cabrera batting title doomsday scenario, hasn’t already been discussed to the point of dead horses being beaten: the Tampa Bay Rays trading David Price.
Mr. Olney suggests the following:
The trade value of David Price will never be higher than it will be this winter, and given the Rays’ need to constantly manage payroll, there will financial incentive for Tampa Bay to flip Price for prospects now. Unlike Evan Longoria, James Shields and Matt Moore, Price did not sign a long-term team-friendly deal, and he is about to become a very expensive player.
Mr. Price actually did sign a long-term deal with the club immediately after he was drafted in 2007, but it included the caveat that he may void it once he becomes arbitration eligible, which he took advantage of during this past off season. As a Super Two, Mr. Price figures to get incredibly expensive before finally becoming free agent eligible ahead of the 2016 season, and while typically, the Tampa Bay Rays have managed to avoid expensive long-term contracts, one might come to reason that if an exception were to be made the tall left-hander would be the one to receive it.
Mr. Olney is right about his trade value, though. As Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos recently stated:
It is harder and harder to get value for players. Teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay and San Diego have to churn players due to financial issues. They need to be a little bit ahead of it. Off the top of my head, ten years ago you could get pretty good value for a player with one or two years of control left. Now it is starting to shift a little bit, it is three years of control or four years of control.
Teams ultimately say: 1) I’m paying a higher salary as you get further along into arbitration so it costs more on your payroll 2) the player is closer to free agency, which is a greater impact with the changes to the draft picks. 3) I’m giving up multiple players – because you can’t do one for one – that could have six years of control each plus the added component of minimal salaries for the first three years.
Mr. Price has three full years of team control left, and while those three years will get progressively more expensive, they are quite likely to still come with a lot of value, enough value, in fact, to bring back an enormous spoil of riches if he is indeed moved. Mr. Olney goes on to count seven different teams – Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs – as potential destinations, but realistically there should be no fewer than 29 other teams kicking the tires on a player of Mr. Price’s skill.
This, despite their reputation for cost-cutting, leads me to believe that Tampa Bay’s interest in moving David Price might be somewhat overstated. It’s not as though the Rays payroll, with dollars being burned on Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, doesn’t have fat that can be trimmed like any other team. The deciding factor will be whether or not Tampa Bay believes more in its stock of position players or pitching prospects: Can Chris Archer replace enough of a portion of David Price’s value to justify the cost of upgrading Hak-Ju Lee for Jurickson Profar?
Meanwhile, the Rays blogosphere isn’t even considering the idea that Price would be moved.