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 winner Wil Myers, a Top-100 prospect and major league ready starter in 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. You can read those proposals, and the conversations that took place, behind these links:
I had one explicit goal in my proposals: to bring the other team to their breaking point, where they would no longer be willing to make a deal. Then I would back the team away from the precipice, and try to find exactly where they stand.
This was not always an easy task. Some teams are so loaded with trade pieces that it was hard to settle who was or was not available, like the Indians or the Cubs, and it just became an exercise in trying different options. Other teams simply were not interested unless Price could be acquired at an absurd discount, either because they didn't have the pieces to offer (Brewers), or simply were unwilling to compromise (Phillies).
Not all trades are created equal, and while I was asking each team to sacrifice in the deals that were offered, that means different things to different franchises.
Thankfully, there is a way to quantify each of these trades.
Last week, Michael offered his research on starting pitcher trades over the last three off-seasons -- of which there have been many, including James Shields -- and concluded that a David Price trade should be able to net a surplus value between $75-100M in players and prospects.
For example, Michael believes that the Dodgers are an excellent suitor for David Price as they would be willing to offer just about every prospect on the farm, thanks to their win-now mentality. He determined that a trade of OF Joc Pederson, SS Corey Seager, RHP Zach Lee, LHP Julio Urias, and LHP Chris Reed would be worth about $91M in surplus value.
The question for the Dodgers, however, is whether they would be willing to deal both of their best prospects in a trade for two years of David Price when they already have a stacked rotation. In my discussion with TrueBlueLA's site manager Eric Stephen, he wasn't willing to make that concession.
There were ten other teams who were willing to make a trade, either by accepting an offer I had extended in my survey, or providing a counter proposal. Applying Michael's research to these trade ideas, we can see how close we came to an appropriate trade for David Price.
All approximates were scaled on a dollar-per-WAR rate of $5 million.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: LHP Jesse Biddle (No. 49)
When asked what would constitute a fair trade for David Price, the Phillies -- represented by Joseph Catanzariti of The Good Phight -- offered platoon-able outfielder Dom Brown, straight up. Brown has power potential and ranked as high as the No. 4 prospect in Baseball (in 2010). It's been three years since then, and we've seen Brown have trouble sticking at the major league level. His performance has been uninspiring, to say the least.
In a best case scenario, Brown could project to provide $35M in surplus value over the remainder of his rookie contract, all-the-while he would be subjecting the Rays to arbitration and his sub-par defense. Oh, and the Rays outfield is full for the next two seasons.
After some further haggling, the Phillies fought back (particularly when I asked for 2013 first round pick J.P. Crawford) and eventually provided this counteroffer:
Phillies get: LHP David Price
Rays get: LHP Jesse Biddle, C Tommy Joseph, RHP Shane Watson, 1B Darin Ruf
Surplus value: $28.46M
In offering more players than Dom Brown alone, the Phillies managed to counter with what is a worse overall value. In fact, this was the lowest trade value offered by any team in the survey. Without Crawford in the deal, this conversation is over.
9. Atlanta Braves
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: None.
I started the Braves proposal timidly, not breaking the bank but asking for a swap of David Price for Mike Minor and a few supplemental prospects to stock farm system needs. That was rebuffed, and Ben Duronio -- site manager for Talking Chop -- offered the same idea with Kris Medlen instead.
Braves get: LHP David Price (2 years)
Rays get: RHP Mike Minor (3 years), 3B Edward Salcedo, C Christian Bethancourt, SS Jose Peraza
Surplus value: $29.04M
Where I started was likely not a value above $50M, and the conversation ended below $30M. Many have named the Braves a suitors for David Price, but I'm not sure I can see the opportunity.
8. Cleveland Indians
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: SS Francisco Lindor (No. 5), OF Clint Frazier (No. 29)
The Indians were only willing to trade one of their Top-50 prospects, but in the end offered neither.
Lindor himself is a value of $60-65M, similar to Wil Myers at the time of his acquisition, and an excellent centerpiece, but Ryan Richards -- managing editor for Let's Go Tribe -- chose to try his luck by offering a major leaguer instead: Zach McAllister.
There wasn't a hard rejection of trading for David Price, but a counteroffer was made:
Indians get: LHP David Price (2 years)
Rays get: RHP Zach McAllister (4 years), SS Dorssys Paulino, C-INF Tony Wolters, RHRP C.C. Lee, INF Ronny Ramirez, INF Jose Ramirez
Surplus value: $43.98M
Half of the trade value is the four years of control for McAllister, but while Paulino and Lee are nice pieces, this is about half of the value the Rays should expect if they were to trade David Price.
Move along, move along.
7. Texas Rangers
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: None.
When the Rays acquired Wil Myers for James Shields, it's important to remember that they also sent along Wade Davis and a PTBNL. The Rays gave more to receive more on the back end of the deal. When you isolate the starting pitcher alone, the deal can become simpler, and feature fewer players. Perhaps this is more dangerous in that the Rays wouldn't diversify their risk, but for the purposes of this exercise, I can appreciate that.
The prospect listing noted above is disingenuous, as there are two players of note: skyrocketing 2B Rougned Odor, and now major league 2B/SS Jurickson Profar. The Rangers are a team with strong enough prospects they can essentially offer just one or two players and the Rays would be tempted -- so they tried just that in their counteroffer:
Rangers get: David Price (2 years), PTBNL
Rays get: INF Jurickson Profar and RHP Connor Sadzeck
Surplus value: $51.00M
I had asked for one of 2B Rougned Odor or 3B Joey Gallo to test the waters, but from a depth perspective, Lone Star Ball manager Adam Morris could not be so bold. If you swap out Profar for Odor, this deal probably creeps up to $55M, add in Gallo and we're up to the $60-65M range, but this is still not a strong offer.
Much has been made of Texas's interest in acquiring David Price, but the recent swap of Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder has made room for Jurickson Profar on the roster and should rightfully temper enthusiasm for a trade.
6. Los Angeles Angels
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: None.
The opportunity to trade with the Angels is something I have been a fan of since the beginning, as it could center around two players I covet: Mark Trumbo and Garrett Richards. Both are sneaky-good players that have aspects to their game people don't give much attention to, but make each player rather valuable. Trumbo has incredible defense at first base, which is rarely on display thanks to Albert Pujols's presence on the roster, and Richards has the arsenal of a strikeout machine.
But I have to digress. The Angels' offer, courtesy of Halos Heaven site manager Mat Gleason:
Angels get: LHP David Price (2 years)
Rays get: RHP Garrett Richards (5 years), 1B Mark Trumbo (3 years), 3B Kaleb Cowart, 1B C.J. Cron
Surplus value: $51.48M
If you're wondering why this deal comes up short, it's because the surplus value to be had in Trumbo is only ~$17.5M due to his contract's arbitration status. Richards is the true centerpiece of the deal at $25M of surplus value, and that's just not enough.
I was a big believer in the Angels' ability to land Price at the start of the off-season, but now I'd find it more likely that they would land Jeremy Hellickson instead.
5½. Los Angeles Dodgers
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: OF Joc Pederson (No. 40)
For the purposes of this exercise, we can only work with what we've been given.
As noted above, if the Dodgers are willing to contribute both OF Joc Pederson and SS Corey Seager, they can build a trade for David Price with a surplus value above $90M or more, which is something only two or three teams can beat.
Unfortunately, in my discussions with Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, the trade arrived at the following:
Dodgers get: LHP David Price (2 years)
Rays get: OF Joc Pederson, RHP Zach Lee, LHP Onelki Garcia, RHP Matt Magill, C Tim Federowicz, 1B O'Koyea Dickson
Surplus value: $56.21M
I wanted to ask for the farm, but all I got instead was, "that sounds perfect, thanks!" It reaffirmed the method I had used with just about every other team: start high.
My offer was a slew of middling prospects that each have a surplus value as high as $6M, but not enough to be the best out there. The Dodgers did not make a counter offer in my discussions, but we all know they could up the ante.
Until then, here they are, stuck in the middle.
5. Cincinnati Reds
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: RHP Robert Stephenson (No. 32), OF Billy Hamilton (No. 41)
Cincinnati offers a conundrum. The Rays surely want inexpensive prospects. The Reds surely want to dump expensive contracts. Should the teams compromise in a David Price trade?
After asking for mostly prospects in a trade built around Stephenson and MLB catcher Devin Mesoraco, a counteroffer was given by Red Reporter's site manager Brandon Kraeling that asks the Rays to take one rather large contract off Cincinnati's hands:
Reds get: David Price (2 years), SS Yunel Escobar (2 years)
Rays get: RHP Robert Stephenson, 2B Brandon Phillips (4 years), RHP Homer Bailey (1 year), C Devin Mesoraco (4 years), 1B Neftali Soto
Surplus value: $59.15M
If you're gut reaction is a giant NO, then you're on the right track. The glaring issue here is Brandon Phillips, who would project to cost more than he is worth by about $3.8M, a negative surplus value; however, you could also consider that $4M in deferred salary left on David Price's contract from last season an even swap.
The troubling aspect for me, other than falling short of the desired $75-100M range, is moving Yunel Escobar off the roster and slotting Ben Zobrist back into shortstop. Each player is comfortable, and defensively among the best, at their current position in the infield, and I do not think the Rays would subject their defense to such a penalty in acquiring Brandon Phillips.
The Reds are a primary candidate to be involved in a three team trade involving David Price -- perhaps one that allows the Rays to hold on to their gold glove worthy short stop and not bring in an expensive contract -- but in the vacuum of this survey, I'm not impressed.
4. Minnesota Twins
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: OF Byron Buxton (No. 1), 3B Miguel Sano (No. 3), RHP Kohl Stewart (No. 30), RHP Alex Meyer (No. 37)
I know, I know. You're excited about Buxton and Sano, but they're not the pieces Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town was willing to deal in this survey, and again I am restrained. This was the counter offer received:
Twins get: LHP David Price
Rays get: RHP Kyle Gibson (MLB-ready), RHP Kohl Stewart, OF Max Kepler, 2B Eddie Rosario (or 2B Brian Dozier), and OF Adam Brett Walke
Surplus value: $59.88M
Surprisingly not bad, Minnesota has much to offer.
Michael has Kohl Stewart's value pegged at $26.88M, and he's the centerpiece here. Like J.P. Crawford, he would have to be included as a PTBNL due to his recent drafting a few months ago. That's a long shot to make work, and like the Dodgers trade, falls short of the intended value with none of the bang from a top prospect.
Again, the Twins could change everything by offering Byron Buxton, but that seems to be a rather unrealistic expectation.
3. Chicago Cubs
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: 3B Kris Bryant (No. 10), SS Javier Baez (No. 11), OF Albert Almora (No. 19), OF Jorge Soler (No. 21), 3B Mike Olt (No. 50)
Josh Timmers, prospect guru of Bleed Cubbie Blue, was among the first guys I talked with, and was vocal in his assumption that the Cubs would not trade more than one of their top-25 ranked prospects. He also made assumptions that the Cubs would be needing a near-guarantee of a contract extension if they were to trade for the Cy Young winner today.
Price is valuable, but not so much as when your team is last in the division.
His offer, like the Rangers package, was two names -- but a much better get:
Cubs get: LHP David Price
Rays get: SS Javier Baez, 1B Dan Vogelbach
Surplus value: $70.61
Most of this value is carried in Baez, the ninth overall selection from 2011, who continued to prove himself in all facets of his game after a promotion to Double-A mid-season, and Michael pegged his to be worth $61.61M on his own, -- in line with the likes of Wil Myers at the time of his acquisition, or Byron Buxton today.
This is a trade just a few moving pieces away from being a real possibility. Imagine a major league ready arm being added to the return and a PTBNL headed to Chicago. The Rays would have to be sorely tempted! I believe the Cubs the most likely destination for Price, whether he is traded this winter, mid-season, or next off-season, and I think this trade illustrates just how easy a transaction would be.
2. Washington Nationals
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: None.
Again, the rankings are misleading, as Top-30 second base prospect Anthony Rendon just graduated to the major league rankings before BA's publication. Rendon is also a Scott Boras client, and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo recently stated he would not be trading Rendon under any circumstances, but roll with the punches.
The Nationals discussion centered around much haggling, as Federal Baseball site manager Patrick Reddington was stuck on the fence. Washington has the unique breadth of talent to make a trade worth your while, but it would truly gut the farm system. Still, where the discussion ended is a valuable get for both sides:
Nationals get: LHP David Price, UTIL Sean Rodriguez, C/3B Chris Gimenez, PTBNL
Rays get: 2B Anthony Rendon, OF Brian Goodwin, LHP Robbie Ray, LHP Brett Mooneyham, RHP Blake Treinen, C Sandy Leon, and RHP Tanner Roark
Surplus value: $75.44M
While each of these pieces have an allure, I'm not sure this trade would match solidly with what the Nationals need to be competitive today and tomorrow. DC would be going all in for the next year or so while sacrificing much of what they've built in the minors. Such a strategy is not sustainable in the long term, and would require a level of desperation I'm not sure Washington has.
Likewise, while Rendon is the kind of player you find room for on a roster, he does not meet the immediate needs of the Rays roster. I don't think the Nationals would ever pull the trigger on this deal, but it was certainly the second best trade offered.
1. Houston Astros
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: SS Carlos Correa (No. 9), RHP Mark Appel (No. 13), OF George Springer (No. 23), 1B Jon Singleton (No. 25), RHP Mike Foltynewicz (No. 36), RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (No. 52)
Houston's interest in trading for Price took me by surprise, but if the Astros want to make a move, Crawfish Boxes manager David Coleman presented a strong case for the pursuit of David Price being the best move one could make. Here's where we landed:
Astros get: LHP David Price (2 years), 1B Cameron Seitzer, PTBNL (bullpen)
Rays get: OF George Springer, 1B Jon Singleton, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Vincent Velasquez, and C Carlos Perez
Surplus value: $92.31M
Half of that value belongs to the incredible George Springer, the eleventh overall selection from 2011, who may be the best athlete in the ridiculously deep Houston farm system. Springer has an incredibly balanced approach to his game, and has all the promise you could want in a marquee acquisition. If the Astros offered this trade today, I don't think the Rays could walk away.
These are but eleven teams covered, and that's worth noting. Any desperate team can always push their chips in the middle of the table an ask for David Price. For instance, if the Mariners felt so inclined, they could start with $40M in value just by offering RHP Taijuan Walker, but I wanted to stay true to the realities conveyed in the survey, where the Mariners were content with King Felix and sent us on our way.
The Cardinals could make a competitive offer for Price any day of the week, but as we saw in the Jhonny Peralta signing and David Freese trade, they're not interested in dealing from the farm to acquire short- or long-term solutions. Money and veterans are all that leave St. Louis's pockets and I can't blame them.
To trade for David Price, a franchise needs to be willing to trade the necessary pieces, and have the value in prospects to make a competitive deal. Everyone is interested, but not all are willing and/or able at a competitive level.
My goal was to gauge each team's interest. For some, that meant sacrificing only $30M in surplus value, for others they were willing to make a competitive offer. In the end, I believe this exercise confirmed the teams most capable and most interested to make a deal, and I would rank them as such:
David Price Power Rankings
For three of these teams -- the Astros, Cubs, and Twins -- the sky is the limit, thanks to their many high end prospects that are each worth $60M in surplus value. The Dodgers and Nationals crack the top five for their ability to out bid through desperation.
Of course, none of this determines the likelihood of a trade. It merely identifies what appears to be the proper mix of interest and capability, based on a survey of individuals who arguably know their team better than the causal observer.
A special thanks to Michael Valancius for his assistance regarding prospect surplus values, and for his excellent research. Baseball America prospect rankings are based on their Mid-Season Top 50, including edits for the 2013 draft picks (link).
I hope you all have found this series entertaining and informative, thanks for sticking with me -- and one final thanks to all our guests who bantered with me about a trade that will never happen... except for one of you, in which case you're welcome for David Price. Now, hurry up with my damn croissants.