To Keep or Trade David Price

It seems like a foregone conclusion that David Price won’t be with the Tampa Bay Rays when spring training begins next year. In previous seasons, Tampa Bay has dealt Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza as the team entered costly years in the arbitration process. The Rays also traded James Shields to address team depth, despite his rather affordable contract, which means there’s plenty of history to suggest a move is in Price’s future.

Some of the statements put out there in recent weeks include concerns about Price’s declining velocity, about diminishing returns on value and whether the team can afford to keep the pitcher for even one more season. There’s no masking the fact Price threw with less velocity in 2013, even after returning from a stint on the disabled list while he recovered from a triceps strain. Price returned from the DL intent on becoming a more efficient pitcher, and he did so with aplomb. In fact, only Cliff Lee threw a higher percentage of strikes in the season’s final three months.

Price found gains in his new approach. Though he gave up a few percentage points in swings and misses, he put batters on the defensive and forced them to swing at his pitches, rather than the ones hitters preferred. Price increased his changeup use and generated more fly balls than he historically had in a season where the league-wide batting average on fly balls was 58 points lower than for grounders.

Some have compared Price’s timeline to those of Garza and Shields, but each of those situations was different from the one the Rays now face. Garza had three years of team control left when he was dealt to Chicago for Chris Archer, Sam Fuld and Hak-Ju Lee. The Rays felt comfortable trading Garza because they still had Shields, Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis — plus Alex Cobb and Matt Moore in the wings.

The organization reluctantly traded Shields — the owner of nearly every franchise pitching record — despite his affordable contract. In return Tampa Bay got Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, players who strengthened future depth and could become the type of young  cornerstones the team failed to develop in the past few seasons. The impact of the Shields trade was mitigated a bit more by the fact Price could anchor the staff, which would allow the young trio of Cobb, Hellickson and Moore to continue their growth. Starter Roberto Hernandez, too, bought time for Archer and Odorizzi to continue their own improvements.

Unfortunately, Hernandez was the only pitcher who made each of his scheduled starts. The other four spent time on the disabled list and forced pitchers such as Alex Colome and Enny Romero to make earlier-than-anticipated starts at the major-league level. After Price, the rotation currently has Cobb, Hellickson, Moore, Archer and Odorizzi. That group, while talented, is not the same level of talent that was present when the other two notable trades took place. Current Steamer projections have Price as a 4.1 WAR pitcher for the 2014 season, which is just 0.1 WAR less than Steamer projects for the Moore-Hellickson duo.

The Rays thought they were an 85- to 87-win team before the 2013 season, yet the team still made the postseason because of how the offense exceeded expectations. If the team thinks it’s in a similar position heading into 2014, trading a 4-plus-win pitcher seems counterproductive. Trading Price before the season would leave it up to Cobb and Moore to front the rotation and would leave Colome and Romero as immediate insurance plans. What that group has in upside, it lacks in experience. That rotation, too, has the feel of a rebuilding team, rather than a contending one.

Lastly, Price is likely to make upwards of $30 million in these next two seasons before he becomes a free agent. Tampa Bay currently has just more than $23 million of committed payroll for 2014, with the ever-looming threat of payroll cuts due to poor attendance. The team already has saved money in the offseason with Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Jeff Niemann, Ryan Roberts and Luke Scott coming off the books. Matt Swartz projects the Rays to add approximately $30 million in payroll through the arbitration process, which would put the team payroll $5 million less than this past season’s before any needed additions are made. Those needs include a first baseman, another catcher and bullpen help.

Price’s 2014 contract would still allow the team to retain him — while cutting the current payroll — but it would limit their options to fill other needs. Conversely, moving Price’s contract would allow the organization to be more than just a bargain-basement shopper on the free-agent market. A trade would help bridge a talent gap at the upper levels of the minor leagues that was created by a combination of disappointing returns from recent drafts and injuries to players such as Lee and Brandon Guyer. One last factor in this conversation is the new monies from the the new national TV deal.  The new yearly revenues from that deal offers some wiggle room that was previously not there, as Wendy Thurm mentioned in her piece earlier this month.

Earlier this week, the Detroit Tigers seemingly cleared the way for Max Scherzer to stick around for a few more seasons by moving nearly $80 million off their books. That deal also eliminated an attractive trade possibility for other clubs. Some may think the Rays are in the unfortunate position of having to trade one of its most popular players because it doesn’t have the budget to retain him. But given the team’s current situation, the market and its budget, it could be the Rays that are in the enviable position of being able to sit tight, or let the market come to them. If that’s the case, perhaps Tampa Bay will find a way to pull off improbable trades in consecutive offseasons.



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putupyourdukes
Guest

Trade him for 150 million and invest it wisely. If Stu can get 5 percent on that 150 mill he can increase payroll to 750k-1mill a year and still keep the current margins!

Book_Worm
Guest
Book_Worm

Are you saying a team should trade for David Price, and then sign him to a deal worth $150M? Otherwise, I don’t see how this would make sense. If a team gave Tampa Bay $150M for David Price, they would still have to negotiate a contract with him, right?

diegosanchez
Guest
diegosanchez

No, he has 2 years of arbitration left

Book_Worm
Guest
Book_Worm

Okay, so it would break down like this:

– Rays get $150M from the other team
– The other team gets David Price for 2014
– David Price gets the salary determined by the arbitration process.

Do I have that right?

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar

If there is ever a player worth keeping—and extending—in Tampa, Price is the guy. Dominating lefty with the repertoire to be highly effective even as velocity erodes, and showing that ability now. Price is in the same situation as prior TB pitchers, but isn’t really comparable. Garza and Jackson simply weren’t as good, and were fair bets to show higher variance in results as they aged. Shields was very good, but Tampa couldn’t afford him and Price, while the Rays at the same time had major roster needs. The return on Shields was as good as it gets; try finding another trading partner who’d give up a player as good as Myers in return for Price. Tampa Bay is also very much a playoff contender right now, despite their tiny payroll . . . but is very much unlikely to be without Price.

Tampa has that MLB media and small market money, they can afford ONE signing if that is how they choose to spend it. At the very least, they keep price over the next two years while the team is in contention, and take the pick if he walks thereafter. If Tampa trades Price, it is simply confirmation that the team can never and will never succeed in their market, no matter how clever they are with development and acquisitions. One can imagine a situation where the offer for Price is SO GREAT that the deal has to be made. (Like, say, Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor, and another starting pitcher—*ughhh* I’m so glad that didn’t fly.) But realistically, David is the guy to keep if ever Tampa is going to.

The Price is right. So keep him and pay him, while moving the parts around him so it all fits.

putupyourdukes
Guest

Uh no. Trade him for $150 mill cash. Period.

Pre
Guest
Pre

If you’re going to come up with a crazy pants plan, might as well go all out. Trade him for a billion dollars and buy every good free agent for the next decade.

Price is good, but he’s not 80 million a year good.

Uh hello
Guest
Uh hello

Assuming 8.2 WAR over the two seasons of team control and modest arbitration settlements, the buyer would be paying a cool $20M/WAR. That seems unlikely to happen.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas

Unless the Rays are a Nippon team that Price plays for, the Rays aren’t getting 150M straight up for him.

Teddy Rochlis
Guest
Teddy Rochlis

well no it would be an extention and price would have his existing contract, there are trades of players for straight cash, the only one of magnitude i can think of is babe ruth for 125k

Spencer Dean
Guest
Spencer Dean

Which is very wierd. In Soccer, as far as I understand, you don’t trade prospects if you want another team’s good players, you give them great big pots of money, a la Manchester City.

CS Yankee
Guest
CS Yankee

You might not get what the old school boxer is laying down and Dukes missed a digit on the calculator…they would have 7.5M$ annually under those numbers without touching the basis.

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd

Like an MLB gift card!

putupyourdukes
Guest

Rays need to start a kitty to be able to afford the billion dollars it’s going to take to pay off the mets and yanks for moving to brooklyn.

Stinky Pete
Member
Stinky Pete

If Stu can get 5 percent on that 150 mill he can increase payroll to 750k-1mill a year

Really? You think 5% on $150 million is about $1 million per year?

Alby
Guest
Alby

You’ve heard of this guy called the commissioner of baseball, right? You’re aware that he has to approve trades in which any substantial amount of cash changes hands, right?

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