The Rays traded David Price and people don’t like it. Everyone, for the most part, accepts the position the Rays were put in. But consensus seems to be the return is underwhelming. There is no Addison Russell. Perhaps there could’ve been an Addison Russell. An ace was turned into non-ace-level talents, but when you’re able to step back and separate yourself from the initial shock, you can see sense in the move that was made. You can see how it addresses the Rays’ goal to keep winning on a budget.
When you talk about moving a player like Price, you’re always looking for that key to the return. You figure he ought to be worth a top-level prospect and change, and there was talk the A’s made Russell available to the Rays shortly before they shipped him to the Cubs. Russell’s quite probably a top 10 prospect in the league, and you can’t say that for Drew Smyly, or Nick Franklin, or Willy Adames. The Rays didn’t end up trading for a potential young superstar. What they traded for instead was greater certainty, greater odds of lower ceilings. The value they got is the value of being young and major-league ready.
The most valuable asset in baseball is the young and cheap star. That’s the guy who delivers a great performance for something close to the league minimum. Then you’ve got the high-level prospects who are knocking right on the door. This is a player like Oscar Taveras, but based on reports, the Cardinals didn’t make Taveras available, and in fact they cleared the path for him to play more often by subtracting Allen Craig. After that you’ve got a choice to make. You can look for greater talent at a lower level, or you can take lesser and more polished talent high in the system. With the former, you’ve got higher ceilings and higher bust rates. With the latter, you’ve got safety and projectability.