With a fifth playoff spot in each league and with each league generally bunched up around the middle, we find ourselves slowly closing in on what should be an interesting trade deadline. Some teams, the White Sox included, may have to make some hard decisions about their prognosis for the second half of 2014. And at this point with only Tampa Bay, San Diego, Arizona, and Houston looking definitely dead at this point--okay, probably Minnesota, the Cubs, the Mets, and the Phillies too--the pieces that will be on the trade market is still unclear. And even though David Price has been the subject of trade rumors for forever now, his market is shaping out in pretty weird fashion. Where do the White Sox fit in?
Jim Bowden wrote an article for Insiders yesterday which got me thinking about the subject in the first place, and without violating the paywall, I will go so far as to say that he assesses the viability of the White Sox as a trade partner for the Rays. Frankly, until he mentioned it, I hadn't even considered it as a possibility. We've talked a lot lately about the awkward in-between place in which the White Sox find themselves -- they probably should sell, but they're also one mid-sized winning streak away from the top of the division or a Wild Card spot. And once I thought about it, David Price would certainly address their biggest need while simultaneously being under control for 2015 as well, a year where the White Sox seem even more likely to compete than this one.
Part of the reason I hadn't considered David Price as a possibility is that I assumed that the asking price would be far too high for the White Sox to be able to realistically meet, or if they could it would hurt too much.
As much as David Price represents 1.5-years of control of a true ace-level pitcher, he may not command as much value as he normally would. That's even when you factor in that with more teams in the hunt, there are theoretically more bidders for his services. As they say, with the right buyer, you can command the price you want. The problem is: who is the right buyer in this market? I discussed this a bit Wednesday afternoon with Matt Adams--no, not that Matt Adams--who raised the point that the Rays are going to be more willing to hold onto Price than buyers will be to go without his talents in a pennant race. That's a pretty strong piece of leverage. I just know that the Rays are all about hoarding as much value as possible, and it will be a question of whether they think they can get the best return now or later.
And, as Matt points out, the Rays are firmly toast this season, meaning they can just start shopping now and spend plenty of time figuring out what they want to do with him.
Now, I preface the following with this statement: Literally every team could use David Price. There is no team in the majors that has five starting pitchers better than David Price. The analysis I'm about to engage in is trying to determine what team, if any, has the means, motive, and opportunity to blow away the Rays with the best offer and in the process probably overpay. This may be more clear in practice. Let's go.
New York Yankees: The Yankees are hanging around in the AL East race and the Wild Card race. As always, the Yankees are strongly motivated--and in many ways, pot committed--to make the playoffs this year. They also desperately need starting pitching, having seen injuries and ineffectiveness plague everyone on their staff not named Tanaka. The Yankees could certainly afford Price, and I think the Rays would be willing to trade within the division if need be, but I don't think the Yankees will overpay for Price in terms of talent.
Gary Sanchez represents a huge percentage of what the Yankees' farm system has to offer. A 21-year old who can probably stick at catcher with an excellent bat, he's surviving decently at AA. The trio of Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott seem to be following up their disappointing 2013s with similarly awful 2014s. Maybe the Yankees are willing to trade Gary Sanchez for Price, but that would be where the deal would likely have to start.
Toronto Blue Jays: Between not signing a slew of first-round draft picks and trading their entire farm system to either the Mets or the Marlins, I'm not sure the Blue Jays have the ammo to pull off such a deal. If they did, I don't know that anyone they can trade - players they drafted in 2014's Rule IV draft aren't eligible to be traded yet - could be considered an overpay.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles cling to their prospects with both hands. They've done very well obtaining or generating mid-to-back-end starters and could desperately use an ace, based on their track record they seem much more inclined to hope that Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, or others emerge as an ace rather than trading to obtain one.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox certainly have the ammo to blow the Rays away with a huge offer, but at the same time, they don't really need to. They clearly have a trio at the front of the rotation that is capable of winning a World Series in Lester, Lackey, and Peavy. In AAA alone, the Red Sox have Rubby de la Rosa (well, he is up for now, but you know), Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo (whom I find to be overrated, but whatever) all dominating. They also have Brandon Workman pitching in at the majors. The best of the bunch may be Henry Owens who is obliterating AA. The Red Sox may decide that Mookie Betts is at the peak of his value, as he may not have an obvious position defensively, or one that isn't blocked by Dustin Pedroia. But it's not like they need arms badly enough to dump a big chunk of their system to a savvy division rival.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals are in first place as of the writing of this article. They've already cashed in a lot of their chips to compete in 2014, and so far so good. David Price would be a pretty huge upgrade on Jeremy Guthrie or Danny Duffy or whatever for the rest of the season, probably, but they would likely have to give up Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer. Or both. That would likely mean the Royals window would close pretty much as soon as it opened, but it would give them a puncher's chance in the playoffs - and a better chance of getting there. They could probably use a bat more than an arm, though.
Detroit Tigers: Pretty sure they have needs more pressing than "front line starter." Also have fun finding something in their minors that would work in a package for Price.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have Lindor and others in their system, but nothing in their history suggests to me that they are going to deal prospects for a rental.
Oakland Athletics: Matt's reaction: "Oakland never has trouble parting with prospects regardless of ceiling or proximity to that ceiling."
With the loss of Jarrod Parker to injury and their recent experience in the playoffs of playing Detroit dead even until they get Verlandered into oblivion, they could certainly boost their already insanely good team by shoving a true #1 into the front of the rotation. But, then again as you may have heard, the A's are cagey. One can imagine the Rays and A's trying to out-sly each other and never really seeing eye-to-eye where they both think they're fleecing the other. Or maybe there's a better match here than I'm realizing. Still, this A's aren't the team that's going to drive Price's uh...price way up due to panic or lack of a Plan B.
Seattle Mariners: Jack Z needs to win now and his team is generally obliging. Taijuan Walker is an enticing piece, as is James Paxton. Felix-Price-Iwakuma would be a pretty evil trio to roll out in the playoffs.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers sure could use some pitching and hahahahaha yeah like Jon Daniels would ever trade one of his precious prospects for a major leaguer.
Washington Nationals: Gonna go ahead and say they don't need help at the top of their rotation.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves have the 4th best ERA from their starters this year. Frankly, they've already pulled miracles from guys like Aaron Harang, and so far their Gavin Floyd gamble has paid off way better than I'd expected so far. I would be surprised if they made a play for Price - Ervin Santana was already the cavalry they called in.
Saint Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals don't need anyone else's pitchers, thank you very much.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are an intriguing notion. They have already invested substantially in the front of their rotation, bringing in Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse to go along with the home grown Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta. They don't really have enough in their minors to make a deal that they could really regret at this point, but this doesn't seem like a huge area of need.
L.A. Dodgers: Their needs are more at catcher and the bullpen, but I consider this to be a pretty complete team as is. Price would obviously make them better and money isn't an issue. They'd just have to dish out prospects to get him, and I think Joc Pederson - as a true center fielder - may fill a greater need on the field with the Dodgers than as a trade chip.
San Francisco Giants: Oh hey, another team that doesn't need a starting pitcher enough to give up way too much for one.
Okay, so that was way too long. The point is: This is a weird trade market. The idea that "David Price is an ace on the trade market = cha-ching!" isn't necessarily true. If the Yankees are willing to deal Gary Sanchez, they could be the big fish the Rays are looking for. If the A's are willing to pay fair value for Price, then the Rays will get fair value but probably no more, and the A's juggernaut will get that much more interesting. The Mariners could very well be the team we're looking for here that would be willing to mortgage their future and pay through the nose for Price.
And that's where the White Sox come in - Price may not command as much of a haul as one might think. Losing Tim Anderson or Courtney Hawkins would sting quite a bit and might be enough to build a tempting package around. The problem is that even with Price the White Sox seem likely to miss the playoffs this year, meaning it is almost entirely a gamble for 2015. Then again, the Brewers wound up giving up all of the top of their shallow farm system in 2008 to get C.C. Sabathia and wound up having him drag them to the playoffs for the first time in ages while regretting absolutely nothing they gave up.
It's an extreme long shot, and depending on what pieces would be in the deal, it may or may not even be wise should it be possible. I am reminded of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park saying, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not that they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
That's the thing though - I did not even think that they could. But I think the Rays may be disappointed with the return Price commands after all.
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