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Aug 10, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) stretches before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Aug 10, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) stretches before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

From Ken Rosenthal this morning:

The following trade idea is presented for your entertainment only, and should not be regarded as anything more than a launching point for discussion among readers. It is a deal that could not be made until the offseason. It has not been proposed, to my knowledge, and it is unlikely to happen, for reasons that will be explained below. OK, now that I’ve dispensed with the disclaimers, let’s have some speculative fun: Tampa Bays left-hander David Price to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Elvis Andrus, left-hander Martin Perez and right-hander Cody Buckel. Crazy? Perhaps.

I like this deal quite a bit......for the Texas Rangers

The simple fact is the Rays are going to have to deal with Price's escalating price tag sooner or later. The $4.35M he is pitching for this season is one of the best pitching bargains in all of baseball. That price tag could reach upwards of $21M over the next two seasons, more if he were to win the Cy Young Award as some are bantering about these days. A $13-$14M price tag in 2014 would represent nearly 20 percent of the average team salary for this franchise over the past few seasons leaving the Rays with two choices: some form of a pre-free agency deal as they did with James Shields or trade him. Either way, it takes two to tango.

Price made repeated hints on Twitter this off-season about being open to a long-term deal with the team, but it has been all quiet on that front during this season as his value continues to rise. If such a deal cannot be worked out, the trade market becomes the likely path as Rosenthal laid out today.

Andrus is set to make $11.25M over the next two seasons before he is eligible for free agency at a position that has been a sore spot for the Rays for quite some time. They have seen some good defensive play from the position and a good offensive season from Jason Bartlett in 2009, but rarely have those two skills been on the same course. Andrus would change that as his bat has caught up with his amazing glove work this season, one in which he leads all shortstops in fWAR at 4.1. Over the past four seasons, only Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Derek Jeter have had a greater combined fWAR than the soon to be 24-year old. A left side of the infield of Andrus and Evan Longoria would inject human awesomeness hormone into the defense DNA we keep hearing about on the radio spots during broadcasts this season.

The Andrus part of the proposal is quite strong but the pitching prospects mentioned come with some risk, one more so than the other.

Martin Perez has been ranked on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list each of the past four seasons. He debuted in the 89th spot in 2009, rocketed up to 17th just a season later, and has fallen back to 24th and 31st each of the past two seasons. Statistically, he has shown a high walk rate in the upper levels of the minor leagues and his strikeout rate in 163 innings of Triple-A baseball has been just 5.5. Buckel's scouting report from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus sounds very much like another pitcher already on the staff:

While he's not the biggest pitcher in the world, Buckel is extremely athletic. His delivery is a bit complicated, but he repeats it well and pounds the strike zone with an average velocity fastball that features a bit of natural sink. He has a highly advanced changeup for his age and experience level, and also has a solid breaking ball.

Buckel's numbers at two levels in the in the Texas farm system have been strong. He posted excellent numbers in the pitching-friendly environment in Myrtle Beach striking out 91battters in 75.2 innings while allowing just 49 hits and two home runs. The change to the Texas League affiliate in Frisco has resulted in less strikeouts and more home runs, but still less hits than innings pitched.

One scout I talked with did not feel including these pitchers was a strong value-add to the proposal. He feels that the Rangers have soured on Perez a bit and that Buckel is a low-risk pitcher with a high floor but a very low ceiling.

The Rangers have the cash to acquire Price and offer him a much stronger enticement to delay his venture into free agency than the Rays can put on the table thanks to their television and stadium revenues. That said, this deal would seem to favor the Rangers more than it does the Rays as there simply is not enough years of player control coming back in this deal to deal away a pitcher of Price's talent level and value. A stronger case could be made for this type of proposal after the 2013 season, but the Rays appear to be taking the greater risk in this proposal with a chance of having nothing to show for trading away one of the game's best pitchers 24 months from now.

Thanks to Tommy Rancel for his help with this piece.