Is David Price a Keeper?
In what is becoming a near-annual tradition, this winter the Rays are expected to trade one of their talented—but costly—starting pitchers. Following in the footsteps of Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields, many are predicting David Price to be the next starter traded.
Logically, Price makes the most sense. He is the Rays’ highest-paid player ($10.1125m) and is set to receive a raise in arbitration that would net him the richest single-season contract in franchise history; he is two years away from free agency with little incentive to re-sign a club friendly deal prior to hitting the market; and he is decorated and talented. If dangled, he would be a franchise pitcher with two years of team control for hire. Those types do not come available often, and few would fault a team that chose to sell the farm for Price.
However, unlike the others starters traded, the Rays still need Price. Names like Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and other are extremely talented, and will be staples of the rotation for years to come, but at this point no stands to anchor a staff. I’m sure the Rays hoped Moore would be ready to step up at. Although his win-loss record and ERA would suggest a budding ace, Moore’s most consistent trait was inconsistency. He will lead the staff at some point, maybe soon, but opening day 2014 seems like a bit of leap.
Alex Cobb is on a very James Shields-like path. Perhaps, he and Moore will link up to be the next Price and Shields. Yet he has to pass the 150-innings mark in a major league year before being relied upon as the staff anchor. Having said that, the Rays would be wise to gauge his interest in a long-term deal.
The other names are extremely talented, but also extremely raw.
Price will be expensive; most likely approaching $15 million. But with expiring contracts of Jeff Niemann, Luke Scott, Ryan Roberts, and other veterans, the team should be able to absorb the raise. Keep in mind, Price has already agreed to a contract with deferred money in the past. Perhaps he would be inclined to do so again if it meant saying in a place where he has spent a significant portion of his adult life (not to mention a place without the hassle of a state income tax).
Chopping a year of controlled time will hurt Price’s trade value some, but teams are willing to part with top prospects for lesser pitchers with lesser guaranteed time. Also consider that should a team acquire Price in the off-season before his free agency, they would be eligible for draft pick compensation if he rejected a qualifying offer and signed elsewhere.
If a team presents the Rays with a Godfather offer this winter then Andrew Friedman will have to make the best decision for the franchise; both short and long term. At the same time, his club is expected to be competitive next season; even more so with Price as a member of it.