Rays receive: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Carlos Martinez, CF Peter Bourjos and 2B Kolten Wong
Cardinals receive: LHP David Price, 2B Ben Zobrist, CF Desmond Jennings and reliever Joel Peralta (the deal would be contingent on Price signing a five- or six-year extension with the Cardinals).
This is fantasy, but let's give this a moment to sink in and consider the merits.
First impressions? I think the Rays would love to bring in Taveras and Wong with one fell swoop, and Martinez is you classic Cardinals arm that projects to be just about anything, including a great arm for the rotation. All great gets if you're Andrew Friedman.
On the other hand, Bowden might be stretching the trade a bit too far with swapping center fielders. Bourjos has defense, but has been a shell of his former self in the other aspects of his game, and this team already has a top defender ready to take center field in Kevin Kiermaier.
Could the Rays send out Desmond Jennings in a blockbuster trade? You could convince me it's possible, but the cost will be paid in prospects, not bench players. It's a harder sell for St. Louis. The Cardinal's outfield is not too desperate as things stand. The combination of Jay and Borjous in center looks like a three win platoon that should suffice on a strong team. I would ignore that "hole" for St. Louis for now.
When I chatted with Cardinals writer Eric Stephen about a possible swap in the off-season, we discussed a different sort of deal:
Rays receive: 1B Matt Adams, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 2B Kolten Wong
Cardinals receive: LHP David Price, RHP Jeff Ames, PTBNL
At the time, however, the trade environment was entirely different. The Cardinals rotation was their strength, Ben Zobrist wasn't considered an expiring contract, and the Rays hadn't drafted Casey Gillaspie to be the first baseman of the future. That last bit is just food for thought, though.
Then and now, I believe the Cardinals would be far more willing to move Matt Adams than Oscar Taveras, and to date, the logjam in the outfield still exists for St. Louis. Trade away Adams, then Allen Craig can rotate back to first base and the outfield is settled with Holliday and Taveras in the corners. Try this on for size:
Rays receive: 1B Matt Adams, RHP Carlos Martinez, and 2B Kolten Wong
Cardinals receive: LHP David Price, 2B Ben Zobrist, and reliever Brandon Gomes
If the Rays can swing Matt Adams (currently sporting a 145 wRC+), then an project-able rotation arm like Martinez, and pry away a trade chip like Wong, could you say no to David Price and Ben Zobrist heading out the door?
If I'm Andrew Friedman, I'd lean toward making this trade. Martinez is what makes the deal for me. I think it's important for the Rays to get back an elite arm in a Price trade, and he fits the bill. The Rays could put him in the rotation on day one, stop jerking him around between different roles and watch him flourish.
With Loney in town for a while still, Adams would end up as the DH. He can flat out hit, and his left-handed power in the middle of the lineup would be a big boost. However, it's fair to be concerned if he's just a platoon player when it's all said and done. His career OPS against lefties is nearly 300 points lower than it is against righties, and his comically low 2.1% walk rate against lefties is troubling. I'd be worried about his aggressive approach more if he hasn't show the strong bat to ball ability he has.
Wong would be Zobrist's immediate replacement at second base, and once he's settled into the big leagues, he could emerge as a future leadoff hitter. He could eventually be a regular .300 hitter, and his solid speed and baserunning ability could bring something lacking in the Rays' offense the last two seasons.
If either or Martinez or Wong were in the Rays system right now, we would call each of them top prospects, so that shouldn't be dismissed. Martinez especially so. He's a little undersized at 6' but still has front of the rotation potential, can touch 100 MPH if he really wants to, and works a fine change. I think the combination of both prospects, who are in the 20's and 30's on a Top-50, plus the huge bat of Adams, makes up for not snagging a Top-5.
Make no mistake, Oscar Taveras is the asking price for King David. Full stop. But if that kind of value is not out there to be had, and the Cardinals are content to offer two upper tier guys, we have to listen. I'd like to see the front office throw in a relief pitcher like Brandon Gomes and pry away a few more prospects to round out the system's meddling depth.
I think it was quite fair of you to bring up the holes in Adams's swing, just like it might also be fair to be worried about Martinez. There's a significant chance of him being a bust from a rotation perspective, and I might even say a significant chance of him being another Mike Montgomery. Blue chip arm with electric stuff that can't play. Likewise, we don't know if Wong is more than a platoon infielder either. But these are all quality bets, and if this trade is truly out there, I think it's worth strong consideration. Adams will only have four years of control starting in 2015, Martinez has an injury history, Wong lacks power and arm. But all three are major league talents, possible All Stars, and relatively low risk thanks to recent track records for success.
There's certainly an element of risk to Martinez, but I think a comparison to Montgomery is a bit off. Martinez is more than two years younger with some big league success under his belt, while Montgomery just turned 25 and is having his first good season in quite some time, but I digress.
When you weigh the risks of Martinez, I still come down on the side of taking him in a deal. Yes, he's a small righty, but I think the stigma against that is fading. Yes, he missed a month with shoulder tendinitis three years ago, but his mechanics have improved since then. Yes, his career high in innings is just a little over 100, but visa issues that limited him last year were out of control now that we're long past the point of his former fraudulent identity. Yes, his changeup needs work, but in this fantasy trade, he'd be coming to an organization that can probably really help with that.
All put together like that, it sounds like the guy could flame out tomorrow, but the reward here is this: a big-time fastball and breaking ball combo that with a little development could be at the top of a rotation for years. That's worth it.
There's a lot to love about this trade potential, even without Oscar Taveras. Bowden seemed to have the right approach with this trade, I just think he shot too high. Our friends at Viva El Birdos also came to the conclusion of sending off Matt Adams to strike a deal, so we may not be far from the mark.
But let's play the what-if game. What if St. Louis could be persuaded to trade their MVP-caliber prospect?
Rays receive: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Carlos Martinez, 2B Kolten Wong, and PTBNL (Class-A SP)
Cardinals receive: LHP David Price, 2B Ben Zobrist, CF Desmond Jennings, and PTBNL (MLB reliever)
If Taveras were on the table, the Rays should bend over backwards to meet whatever demands the Cardinals might have. In that case, sure let's mix in Desmond Jennings. But instead of Peter Borjos, I am way more intrigued by what other pitching arms might be stashed in High-A for St. Louis. Give me another guy that can pitch a season for Montgomery next year and round out the depth. That's far more compelling to me, but now we've drifted back into fantasy land.
I truly believe that Oscar Taveras could be an MVP candidate while dominating Carl Crawford's old stomping grounds by the 162 Landing. He's a recently graduated Top-5 prospect. Should I be writing off the potential here for a trade?
I don't know about that exact deal. I'm inclined to agree that Bowden is getting too much for the Rays there, but a deal based around a Price for Taveras framework could be in play.
The Cubs landed Addison Russell for one year and three months of Jeff Samadzija. He's good, but Price is better, and if a trade were to happen tomorrow, the A's and Cardinals would be getting roughly the same amount of starts.
Price is more expensive, but money is not as much of an obstacle for St. Louis as it is with Oakland.
Whether or not the Rays should do that, if possible, is a question that probably deserves another post of its own. If they wait until the off-season, they're going to get less value in return for David Price, but I don't think it's so much less value that the Rays urgently need to make a deal now. We still have three weeks to decide if what they can get in return for a trade is worth throwing in the towel on 2014.
I'm not sure it matters whether the Rays are in contention right now, at nearly ten games back of the division. If you can get Taveras, you take it yesterday. If you can get Adams, you strongly consider. Martinez completes the deal, while selling at the right time to maximize value on Price and Zobrist. A trade makes so much sense for both sides, the only deterrent has to be St. Louis's willingness to trade away pieces.
For all these reasons, I think the Rays should be in play -- with Price, Zobrist, and Jennings all on the table -- for Taveras, Matinez, and Wong. The Cardinals get their pieces to vie for another World Series today, end their woes in center field, and the chance to extend David Price long term. The Rays get every building block you could possibly want for a stacked and durable line up in the AL East.
It's a monster trade, and it's brilliant.