I've been reaching out to other SB Nation writers to gauge the general interest of other teams in acquiring David Price this winter, asking whether they would be interested in making a trade, what that editor thinks would be fair, and then offering a trade proposal of my own.
As we saw last winter with the trade of James Shields, the price on starting pitching can be extraordinarily high, even if most teams are not willing to pay as much. When the Rays sent off their ace, they received a consensus Top-5 prospect and rookie of the year candidate Wil Myers, Top-100 prospect and major league ready starter Jake Odorizzi, a former Top-50 prospect in SP Mike Montgomery, and a mid-level prospect to round things out.
Using these rankings as a barometer, I believe the Rays should be able to net two Top-50 prospects in looking at suitors for David Price, and crafted my trade proposals as such.
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: SS Francisco Lindor (No. 5), OF Clint Frazier (No. 29)
Do you want your team to acquire David Price?
I have to admit it's an intriguing possibility. The Indians will probably be losing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, and they'll be in the market for at least one starter if that happens. And although there's 0% chance that the Indians would be able to keep Price past the 2015 season, I think it's worth looking into.
Wahoo's on First thinks it's perfectly reasonable to pull a 2013 Royals and ship out Francisco Lindor for David Price, but I think the Indians will be more motivated if they don't have to. If Lindor is on the table, that changes everything, but right now I feel it's best to assume the Indians front office would rather hang on to him.
Would you agree?
I would say everyone in the minor-league organization except Francisco Lindor would be available in a Price deal.
Understood. I've been building trade offers around two Top-50 prospects, but without Lindor, we could start to make up for it in your 2013 first round pick by trading him as a player to be named later. Here's my more-reasonable trade proposal:
Indians get: LHP David Price (2 years)
Rays get: OF Clint Frazier (PTBNL), SS Dorssys Paulino, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Cody Allen, C-INF Tony Wolters, LF Logan Vick
Do you say no?
I wouldn't totally be against combinations of those players being included in a trade, but not four very good/excellent prospects, plus Cody Allen.
Now is not the time for the Indians to be trading Trevor Bauer, and I don't think trading Frazier this early in his development would be attractive to either club, especially since he couldn't be dealt until next June.
What do you think would be a fair trade for David Price?
Thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of each organization, here's what I came up with:
RHSP Zach McAllister (MLB)
C Tony Wolters (High-A)
SS Dorssys Paulino (Low-A)
RHRP C.C. Lee (AAA/MLB)
If the Indians could re-sign Scott Kazmir, that would allow them to trade one of their younger starters.
McAllister is controlled through 2018 (5 years), and was on the cusp of having a breakout season before the finger injury. Yes, I know that the Rays are loaded with young pitching, but McAllister could either fill a rotation spot or be spun off in another deal.
C.C. Lee should be able to help in the bullpen right away. And then you have a couple high-upside guys who are several years away in Wolters and Paulino - Wolters because of the position change and Paulino because he's so young.
The Indians are loaded in the organization at catcher and in the middle infield, so I think they'd be more inclined to deal from those positions. SS/2B Ronny Rodriguez (AA), 2B/SS Jose Ramirez (AA), C Jake Lowery (AA), and C Alex Monsalve (AA) are other middle infield and catching prospects that you can mix and match with as well.
I had a fleeting notion of constructing a mega-deal involving Price and Carlos Santana, but thought better of it and stuck with something a bit more realistic.
Santana! I'm intrigued. The Rays clearly have a hole at the catcher position, unless the immortal Jose Molina returns next season, but that kind of trade seems unlikely. Could you elaborate?
I toyed with dealing Carlos Santana, who perhaps is a more valuable player than Price if you take into account contracts (signed through 2016 with 2017 option for a grand total of $29.75M, about what Price would make in 2014-2015), but that would make the deal much more complicated, and would create a rather large hole in the lineup. And why fill a potential hole by creating another one?
Back to your counter offer, I'm alright with substituting Bauer with McAllister, but it still feels like the Rays could find a better offer elsewhere if they don't have a Top-10 prospect coming back.
What would you need to see coming back for the Rays to net Lindor?
Lindor is not available.
If it comes down to the Rays insisting on Lindor, the Indians walk away and look for pitching help elsewhere.
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: RHP Robert Stephenson (No. 32), OF Billy Hamilton (No. 41)
Cincinnati already has a lot of quality pitching. Do you want the Reds to acquire David Price?
Price is an elite pitcher that makes one of the best rotations in the NL even better. One thing that the Reds have been missing is a lefty starter, and Price fills that hole and then some.
Using assets from your team, what do you think would be a fair trade for David Price?
Lately, if you're talking about the Reds in trade talks, Brandon Phillips is probably involved somehow. I'd think that Phillips, a pitcher (Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Tony Cingrani, Aroldis Chapman), and a top 5 prospect would probably do it. I'm hesitant to say Stephenson there, but I get the feeling the Rays don't do that deal without him.
Brandon Phillips comes with quite hefty price tag for the Rays (next four years are $11M, $12M, $13M, $14M), considering the Rays are only paying Yunel Escobar $5M per season, but it's hard not to find his level of production alluring.
I have to agree on your last point, the deal centers around Stephenson. The Rays value prospects with a high ceiling for their cost savings, and they have less of a need at second base than first base or catcher. Phillips and all those pitching names have great value, but not at a long term benefit, or one that comes cheaply.
Leake is under control for the next two seasons and should double what he made last year in arbitration, Bailey is a $9M band-aid for the Rays and has one season of control, and Chapman is both expensive and without a set position. There's no guarantee he would give the same value to the Rays in the rotation. Tony Cingrani has the team friendly contract as a recent promotion to the majors, so he's probably the only name of the bunch I think would work.
If the Rays trade Price, an ideal situation brings back a top prospect with great control, brings back a major league ready starter to fill the gap left in the rotation, restocks the farm system, and hopefully satisfies a positional need.
So here's my counter offer:
Reds get: David Price (2 years) and C/3B Chris Gimenez
Rays get: C Devin Mesoraco (4 years), RHP Robert Stephenson, OF Jesse Winker, and 1B Neftali Soto
This checks a lot of the boxes for the Rays. Do you say no?
I think this sounds about right, actually.
The deal centers around Stephenson, of course, but if the Reds decide that Mesoraco isn't the catcher going forward, they could make this move. I tend to think that this coming year would be the make-or-break year for Mes', so the Reds would need to be blown away to move him.
Winker is a tough blow, as the team probably won't lose their top pitching and position prospects in one deal, but this is close. Soto makes a ton of sense, as he has no place in Cincy with Votto there and is probably a DH-type anyway.
It seems like we are evaluating prospects pretty equally then.
What if I also asked for one of your outfield prospects, say Jonathan Reynoso or Kyle Waldrop. Is that gutting the farm?
Reynoso or Waldrop would be easy to pull the trigger on. I just don't think the Reds trade prospects alone for Price. They have big league pieces that they need to move, and I think that'll come first.
The Reds aren't a team that would trade for Price just because he's available; Walt Jocketty needs to get his issues settled too. The more applicable question for Jocketty is if the Rays can help him with his Phillips problem, not the other way around.
If you're interested in dealing Phillips -- and as you said earlier, a current SP instead of prospects -- do you think we could flesh this trade out to include less prospects and more current players? If the Rays were to lose the value of cost savings and team control, the Price tag would have to go up, but let's give this a shot:
Reds get: LHP David Price (2 years), C/3B Chris Gimenez, 1B/3B Richie Shaffer, PTBNL
Rays get: RHP Robert Stephenson, 2B Brandon Phillips (4 years), RHP Homer Bailey (1 year), C Devin Mesoraco (4 years), 1B Neftali Soto, and cash
Do you say no?
If the Reds do BP, Homer, and BobSteve, Mesoraco isn't in it. They gave up significantly less than that for Mat Latos, who had 4 years of team control.
If it's a complete salary dump with the Reds paying no money, and the Rays throw in Escobar back, there's a conversation.
The Indians are unwilling to trade Francisco Lindor, and I can't imagine why they would be. The Indians are capable of contending without David Price, as we've seen this season, and could return the same team next year with room for prospects to round out the rotation and a mid-season call up of a Top-5 player. Why risk that on a pitcher with a high cost?
The Reds are more interested in moving current players than prospects, which raises questions as to whether the Rays would even be interested, given the financial investment involved and the lack of control over time. Phillips is just too expensive for me to be interested alone, but if he comes with Mesoraco, Stephenson, and Soto it's a little harder to hang up the phone.
Baseball America prospect rankings based on their Mid-Season Top 50, including edits for the 2013 draft picks (link).