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.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: OF Joc Pederson (No. 40)
Let's get down to it. Do you want the Dodgers to acquire David Price?
Yes, I think Price is one of the best pitchers in the game, and a true ace. He, coupled with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, would give the Dodgers the best top three in baseball and with Hyun-jin Ryu probably the top four as well.
Given what it would mean for LA, are you comfortable with a lofty price? Do the Dodgers have what it takes to make a competitive bid for the former Cy Young winner?
The Dodgers farm system lacks depth, but their top four prospects would all be targets. Their best prospect is Corey Seager, just 19 but already in high Class-A. He's a shortstop but just about everyone profiles him as a third baseman by the time he hits the big leagues.
The other three top prospects are Double-A outfielder Joc Pederson, starting pitcher Zach Lee, and 17-year-old (!!!) Julio Urias, who already tore up the Class-A Midwest League in short bursts at 16. At least two of those four, if not more, would have to be included in any deal for Price.
There's two of the four you mentioned I have my eye on, and there's much more I think the Rays could ask of the Dodgers bring depth back into their farm system. What if I skipped over Seager and asked for the farm?
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
Do you say no?
I would absolutely make this trade every day of the week.
I think pitchers like Price are a rare commodity (with a tip of the cap to the Rays for seemingly having a factory of frontline starting pitchers on which to fall back) and I'd probably deal more than most to get him.
Garcia is wild but will be able to get lefties out at the very least, and Magill would provide rotation depth that can be stacked in Triple-A. Federowicz is a solid backup catcher, and Dickson isn't someone I'd lament losing by any means.
I am most worried about losing Seager in a deal, as I'd imagine Tampa Bay would insist on his inclusion in a deal.
The Dodgers have four outfielders signed through at least 2017, and even if a trade of one of them is made this winter, Pederson has little room to squeeze in a future in Los Angeles. Lee is knocking on the door and I expect him to make his major league debut in 2014 at some point.
Do you think I've missed the mark with my trade proposal? Would it be fair for the Rays to ask for all of the guys I listed and simply add Seager?
I think your proposal was fair, and I think if Seager was added one or two of the other players would likely be removed.
I imagine the Rays would at least ask for Seager, if not insist on him.
St. Louis Cardinals
Baseball America Top-50 prospects: OF Oscar Taveras (No. 2), RHP Michael Wacha (No. 15), RHP Carlos Martinez (No. 27), 2B Kolten Wong (No. 53)
Do you want the Cardinals to acquire David Price?
Probably not-the Cardinals have plenty of holes, but the rotation is a strength. They need those cheap young pitchers to subsidize whatever they plan on doing at shortstop.
Y'all have all the pieces to make a trade and meet the Rays' needs, and a year after losing the Series, there's a Cy Young winner on the trade block, and you're gonna shoot it down?
Is the issue the cost? What do you think is a fair value for Price, given what the Cardinals have to offer?
It's hard to say; having not seen much of Price this year, I'm not sure what to make of his sudden transformation into Cliff Lee.
I can't see the Cardinals trading young position players for additional pitching, especially pitching that's about to get very expensive-David Price is great, but the Cardinals need Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras more, especially with Carlos Beltran on his way out.
Basically, you're saying Price doesn't fit your team needs, and you'd have to sacrifice current needs to land him. I understand. But can we play the what if game?
What if Carlos Beltran accepts his qualifying offer, and Allen Craig can't move to the outfield? There would be immediate excess on the Cardinals roster, and that could be used to go after Price.
It's really hard to imagine John Mozeliak getting more expensive at two positions with the same move, and by trading Matt Adams and a starter for David Price and resigning Carlos Beltran he'd be doing that.
At this point the Cardinals have to find rotation spots for Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez; have to find a spot on the bubble for Lance Lynn; and have to at least pretend to Jaime Garcia's face that they're depending on him to come back from shoulder problems.
A popular trade idea is a swap of David Price for Oscar Taveras and a pitcher. Why would the Cardinals say no?
Price, especially the strike-throwing automaton who showed up this year, is absolutely the Cardinals' kind of pitcher. But even independent of their roster's existing pitching glut, I'm not sure they'd pull the trigger on this one.
The Cardinals panicked and dumped their top hitting prospect and an excellent young pitcher for a somewhat overrated left-handed ace after losing to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series once already; I don't see it happening again.
Would the Rays trade Wil Myers for David Price?
What if I avoided asking for pieces that were starters on the roster? Motte is returning as the closer this season, and the Rays could use help on the infield, where all but short stop is on lockdown at the major league level.
Cardinals get: LHP David Price (2 years), RHP Jeff Ames, PTBNL
Rays get: 1B Matt Adams, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 2B Kolten Wong
Do you really say no?
Kolten Wong is definitely a possible trade chip -- though I'd rather see the Cardinals move Carpenter to third and erect a David Freese statue outside Busch Stadium -- but I think the problem Cardinals-Price trades run into is that most of the scenarios involve them trading from the weakest parts of their roster to bolster the part with the highest replacement level, where additional wins are most expensive.
Without Wong, the Cardinals have no depth on the infield; without Rosenthal they're dependent on Jason Motte and probably forced to leave Carlos Martinez in the bullpen; and without Matt Adams they probably resign Carlos Beltran, who's going to be expensive.
Without David Price, they've got 30 frustrating starts from Lance Lynn (if they're lucky) and $10 million to throw at Pete Kozma's replacement, which is a pleasant prospect for Cardinals fans right now.
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)
I almost didn't reach out to David, as I hadn't considered the Astros as a logical destination for David Price, but that was overlooking three very important things:
1. The Astros are a big-market team with enough financial resources to make big moves
2. The Astros have more Top-50 prospects than any other team in baseball
3. The Astros are not far removed from competing in 2015, given the breadth of talent nearing the bigs
Enter David Coleman, who has much to say about the Astros' activity on the market this winter, specifically about "why a trade makes more sense for the Astros than a free agent signing."
If the Astros are going to do SOMEthing, it's good to look at all their options. We could list all the possible free agents and discuss possible targets that fit this roster [...] or, we could do something more constructive and look at the philosophy probably driving Houston's decision-making.
Essentially, if the Astros are going to make a move, they might as well net the best value possible, which leads to David Price.
Tampa Bay may well deal David Price this offseason and he makes the perfect target if Houston is looking to make a splash.
Why, you ask? Because he falls into the category of player Houston would want in a deal like this. He's much like Giancarlo Stanton or even what Mat Latos was before going to the Reds. He's young, has a few controllable years left and still at his peak.
Houston could then offer Price or Stanton or whoever an extension and lock him up for the foreseeable future.
We pick up the conversation with David here.
Knowing that he is only under contract for the next two years, do you want the Astros to try and acquire David Price?
I'm fully on board with the Astros making the right trade at this point in their rebuilding cycle. I think that includes Price.
Using the assets that Houston has to offer, which is a lot, what do you think would be a fair trade for David Price --however unlikely it might be?
Something centered around first baseman 1B Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart and another of Houston's pitchers would be a good start. I'm sure the Rays will want Correa or Springer, but I don't see either of those guys getting moved. Another couple names that might get added are shortstop Jonathan Villar and catcher Carlos Perez.
As you say, it's highly unlikely to happen. But, if Houston wants to contend by 2015 and take a step forward in 2014, getting Price and locking him into a long-term deal would be a smart way to begin the process.
The process is the part that concerns me. In your article, you wrote: "The other benefit of Price is that you could make an easy deal with players that would sting Houston, but not cripple them." If Price were willing to go long term, I say why not.
But what if Price doesn't want a long term deal after his two years is up? Would a trade still be worth your time?
Well, I guess the idea would be for Houston to try and woo him with the culture around the team and the young players. They also have a pile of cash with no one to throw it at, so why not throw it mostly at Price? It's a risk, but no more of a risk than signing any free agent past the age of 30 might be.
In terms of striking a deal, I think the Rays would need a better centerpiece than Singleton. We should be buying low on Singleton, not making him the focus of the trade. Using the Mat Latos deal as a benchmark, the Rays should be able to net two Top 50 prospects, and will certainly want to best the return on James Shields last winter.
Jason Parks did not have positive things to say of Singleton for Baseball Prospectus last week: "The power potential is there for a middle-of-the-order presence, but the likely role is a second-division player who flashes his potential but never quite lives up to the hype."
Singleton hasn't fallen as much as Mike Montgomery did, but the feel is the same. He has upside, but will he get back in shape? In Singleton's case, are we acquiring a DH that may be a bust? There's a lot of risk. I think Singleton, Cosart, and an arm like Velasquez would net you Jeremy Hellickson, not David Price.
If the Rays can't bring in what I would consider one of your two top prospects -- Correa or Appel -- I have to ask for a pairing of Springer with Singleton.
So, here's my proposal:
Astros get: LHP David Price (2 years), two PTBNL's
Rays get: OF George Springer, 1B Jon Singleton, RHP Vincent Velasquez, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, and C Carlos Perez
That is essentially a Top-15 prospect, a Top-75 prospect, a Top-100 prospect, a B- prospect, and a C+ prospect, which is better than the return on James Shields/Wade Davis, but not by a significant margin.
Do you say no?
The Astros can't give up Springer AND Folty' in the same deal for David Price. My first change would be Cosart for Folty'.
Ultimately, I don't think the Astros give up more than two of their top five players in any trade. Which means if Springer and Singleton are included, the pitching price goes down.
Cosart was a Top 100 guy before last year, and if we're using the Shields/Davis trade as a benchmark, only having one position player in the deal makes sense, with pitchers rounding things out. If only one of them are involved, then the (value of) pitching included moves up.
If Folty' is off the table and replaced by Cosart, who I am not so enamored with, I'd think the Rays would need something more. Maybe RHP Lance McCullers or OF Domingo Santana?
Honestly, Springer, Singleton and Folty' with pieces is better a package for Price than any other team can offer, so I don't know that adding more that four top 10 org guys to the mix makes sense.
Let's go back to those PTBNL's then. If there's another quality piece returning to Houston, can they pull the trigger? What do you think of an MLB ready outfielder like Brandon Guyer?
Guyer would be a nice piece, but fits with many of Houston's motley outfielders trying to shore up the position. How would you feel about including 1B Cameron Seitzer and a bullpen arm?
Seitzer is an incredibly gifted hitter, and the best the Rays have to offer at first base in the minors, but granted the return the Rays would have in Singleton, I could see that shaping out the trade positionally and in talent.
Call the bullpen arm a PTBNL, and the trade looks like this:
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
To me, this looks fair. Do you agree?
I think it's a fair deal as it stands, since it hurts both sides. If it doesn't sting, then one side is probably getting the better half of the deal. With this one, I think the losses are equally painful.
Houston is giving up four of its top prospects, but if the Astros want to contend by 2015... (turns, puts on sunglasses) the Price seems right.
The Dodgers are clearly interested, and have every intention of making a competitive offer for David Price. There's also reasons to be wary of the Dodgers' best trade chips. There's a real risk that Joc Pederson will be a platoon outfielder, due to his struggles against left handed pitching, and despite Corey Seager's pedigree, he struggled in his promotion to High-A this season, which tempers his fast-track to the majors, and wouldn't meet a Rays need defensively as a third baseman. Both are Top-50 prospects, but neither are Top-30. I don't think that's the best the Rays can find on the market, but the Dodgers will try, so we can't count them out.
The Cardinals are clearly not interested, to the heart break of just about every Rays fan. We all have this pipe dream where the Rays land Matt Adams and a stud pitcher with years of control by sending off David Price, but the fit isn't there. The Cardinals will rival the best rotation in the National League with Wacha and Martinez joining up next season. As much as I want to believe otherwise, adding Price at a great cost just doesn't seem reasonable.
The Astros blew me away, and whether or not you think that deal is reasonable is whether you think the Astros should be making this kind of trade at all. The move would be aggressive and a complete shift in methodology for the Astros, who have been in a strict rebuilding stage for the past two seasons. From a prospects standpoint, It's undeniable the Astros could match or best any offer from just about any team. The question for them is simply whether they want to.
Baseball America prospect rankings based on their Mid-Season Top 50, including edits for the 2013 draft picks (link).