Yesterday evening we received our first morsel of David Price rumors, as Jeff Passan connected seven teams with the Rays through sources in regards to acquiring our ace, the most notably being the Dodgers and the Mariners.
Twitter went wild in the late afternoon as Seattle's GM was rumored to be in some form of a panic, and on his way to a major move. Something franchise altering, it would seem, and most assumed it involved out-bidding New York for Robinson Cano; however, acquiring David Price would also qualify as such a move, and Passan's rumors fit the bill. Strangely enough, one move could even fuel the other.
This is the first time trading David Price has felt real. That moment when I saw someone other than myself publishing team names and trade chips. If I'm being honest, I'm not ready for this. Emotionally speaking. The thought of losing James Shields and David Price in back-to-back off seasons is absolutely devastating. Why is that only sinking in now?
After an eight-part series on gauging the interest of other teams in David Price, and extensive research on the part of Michael, we've determined the Rays are on the look out for $75-100M in surplus value, a package slightly better than what James Shields brought to Tampa Bay.
Surely, I've thought to myself, no one can match such lofty expectations, which before I've been convinced only Houston, Minnesota, and Chicago (NL) could offer. Passan has seven teams listed; interestingly, none of them are the Cubs:
The Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays are among the teams that not only have an interest in Price but believe they can put together the sort of package to pry Price from the Rays, sources said.
So, how many of these teams could actually put together a competitive offer?
The Mariners and Diamondbacks have each expressed aggressive interest in acquiring an ace in the last 24-hours, and both teams boast a likely Top-5, right-handed, starting pitching prospect.
Seattle has Taijuan Walker, who holds the edge of incredible command of the strike zone, which means he could slot into Price's role immediately. Arizona has Double-A starter Archie Bradley, who has the stuff dreams are made of -- an upper 90's fastball, incredible durability, two plus breaking balls: a deceptive curve and an above average change up.
Either player could be worth as much as $55M in surplus value, and for simplicity's sake, that's assuming $5M is still the cost of one win. Each team would then need to bring together approximately $40M in surplus value between additional players and prospects to claim Price for their own.
Let's dive deeper into each of these teams by identifying the cornerstone required to make a trade for Price happen, and adding more names from there (2014 prospect levels in parentheses).
Taijuan Walker -- Photo credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Cornerstone: RHSP Taijuan Walker (MLB ready) - $54M surplus value
Passan's sources indicated Walker would be included, which is a pleasant surprise. There's merit that Walker for Price alone would be justifiable, but working off our $75-100M model, we can add more.
Walker could be ready to fill Price's shoes immediately, but would likely start the season in Durham given the Rays way of developing pitchers slow and maintaining a many years of control as possible. Price had been promoted too early and was granted Super-2 status, making his rookie contract more expensive a year early. Unless depth forces their hand, you won't see management doing that again.
Walker has a fastball and cutter ready now, with a mix of change and curve that could use more work. Some reports say his delivery needs tinkering to take strain off his shoulder, but that's a minor detail.
The Rays could target Seattle's 2013 top draft pick D.J. Peterson to expand the trade, a college third baseman with a short stroke and tons of power. His position could develop into a a first baseman or corner outfielder, given his average defensive skill set. Peterson would need to be a Player to be Named in the deal, as draftees cannot be traded during their first year. His development was immediately stinted as he blared through A-ball after taking a pitch to jaw that required surgery and wiring shut. His surplus value in this deal would be around $20M.
LHPs James Paxton or Danny Hultzen could compliment the trade. Paxton had an erratic year at Triple-A but is strong depth to be added behind Walker in the Rays system. He would join Colome, Odorizzi, and Romero in Durham, where isn't as pressing a need as deeper in the system. The other man is Hultzen, who was regarded to be in the Top-30, but a labrum injury has seen his stock plummet and makes him a buy-low candidate. While Paxton could add $14-16M in surplus value, Hultzen's worth would now be lower.
Seattle also has a slew of major league infielders that could interest the Rays, although the need next season is first base. Friedman could ask for Justin Smoak, while middle infielders Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, or Dustin Ackley (now playing the outfield) could all be interesting gets.
Smoak is entering his first of three years for arbitration, and recently posted the strongest offensive season of his career, with a 109 wRC+, a .331 wOBA, and 20 home runs. There's also catchers Mike Zunino and (now DH) Jesus Montero that could be used as trade chips as well.
Just one of these major league players along side Walker should be enough, and adding a prospect would push the deal into the "unbeatable" range. Seattle has all the young pieces on their 40-man to make a case for themselves, and desperation is always helpful in another GM.
More Zduriencik: "...always have felt there would be a time where we have to augment this club. I think we’re at that time."— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) December 4, 2013
Cornerstone: RHSP Archie Bradley (AAA) - $52M surplus value
Arizona's top ten prospects are filled with pitchers and defenders on the left side of the diamond, which is not a need in Tampa Bay. I can't imagine the Rays would be able to pry away southpaw Tyler Skaggs, who has dabbled in thirteen major league starts over the last two seasons. Skaggs has light out stuff and would provide $22-25M in surplus value if traded, but I can't believe Kevin Towers would send off his two best prospective pitchers in the same deal.
Third baseman Matt Davidson has spent time at first, although he is right handed, and grades a 60 on the scouting scale with an ability to play in the majors today if needed. The 22-year old Davidson is blocked in the organization by Goldschmidt at first and Prado at third, but should grade as a Top-100 prospect in the rankings this off-season. His bat needs another season at Triple-A to solidify, but I'd pin his surplus value at $15-17M.
Put all three players together for Price, and the Diamondbacks get their prize. Choose two of the three, and they have a competitive offer.
Another player the Rays could inquire on is CF A.J. Pollock, who would be a sell high candidate for AZ after his 3.6 WAR rookie season. Otherwise, top prospects I would expect to be involved are SS Chris Owings (MLB -- they have a lot of short stops), RHSP Randall Delgado (MLB), or C Stryker Trahan (Class-A).
You might think Arizona would not be inclined to make this move, and you'd be right. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick spoke extensively with the GM Kevin Towers, Pres. Derrick Hall, and owner Ken Kendrick on the idea of acquiring an ace. Of all his players, the only one Towers wanted to keep off the table was Bradley:
"I don't see that happening. Not that anybody is untouchable, but we're hoping he's our David Price, and we can control him [for several years]. He's gonna get every opportunity to crack our rotation this spring ... He's not looking to make our rotation as the fifth guy -- he's looking to make it as the ace."
Archie Bradley -- Photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers
Cornerstone: OF Joc Pederson (AAA) - $34M; SS Corey Seager (High-A) - $33M
The Dodgers have an opportunity to make their own competitive offer by combining two players arguably in the Top-40 at rather young ages. Joc Pederson hit a whopping 155 wRC+ at Double-A last season, while Corey Seager did the same at Class-A ball before graduating to High-A. Pederson could be ready by the September call ups or earlier, while Seager has a longer development path. Each are deserving of the hype.
Michael built a trade using Pederson and Seager, and suggested adding RHP Zach Lee (AAA), LHP Julio Urias (High-A), and LHP Chris Reed (AAA) to bring the total to about $91M in surplus value. You could also ask for RHP Matt Magill (AAA) or 1B O'Koyea Dickson (AA). Either way, those pieces should get you to approximately $90M in surplus value, which is an extremely competitive bid.
Los Angeles Angels
I've been tantalized by what the Angels have to offer at the major league level in Mark Trumbo and Garrett Richards.
Trumbo is a great defender at first base, where he is blocked by Pujols, hits home runs for breakfast, and is about to get expensive over three years of arbitration, limiting his surplus value to ~$17.5M.
Richards has an incredible repertoire (discussed here) and five years of control remaining, which brings in $25M, but there's a significant problem: The Angels farm system barely has a pulse. If you put together every Top-100 prospect list in a few months, I'm not sure a single Halo makes the cut.
Top prospects on their side are 2B Taylor Lindsay, 3B Kaleb Cowart, OF Kole Calhoun, and 1B C.J. Cron, but none would bring in more than $3-6M in surplus value individually.
Unless the Angles want to send Josh Hamilton over and pay his salary (just trying to think of something outlandish), I don't see a trade reaching higher than $60-65M in surplus value.
Jameson Taillon -- Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Cornerstone: RHSP Jameson Taillon (AAA) - $43M
This is somewhat unexpected, as the Pirates are presumably in the market for power hitters, not ace pitchers -- but John Perrotto confirms that Pittsburgh are growing more and more willing to give up Taillon for the Rays' ace, particularly due to the emergence of right handed pitching arms Tyler Glasnow and Nicholas Kingham in the farm system. However, I have to think the Rays would target at least one of these players as well.
Glasnow has leaped into the Top-50 this off-season, thanks to remarkably high 36.3% strikeout rate at Class-A West Virginia (164 K's for 111.1 IP). He could offer $26-29M in surplus value, should the Pirates part with him.
Otherwise, there's Kingham (AA), who maintained held a 26% and 22% K-rate in High-A, and who has the ceiling of a workhorse/No. 3 starter. Kingham has struggled pitching from the stretch, but has never had hindrances in his development. He'd be worth about $16M in surplus value.
To round out a competitive offer, the Pirates have two more worthwhile position player prospects to choose from.
OF Gregory Polanco (AA) could be a concensus Top-15 prospect this off-season, as most reports favor his promise, despite what should be a slow rise through the minors. The Pirates pushed him as high as Triple-A last season for two games, but he'll likely start back in Double-A next year. He's quick on the bases, has the defense to stick in center, and is developing a lot of strength that should translate into power in the near future. You could peg his surplus value at $40M, which makes Polanco alluring.
Finally, there's SS Alen Hanson, who has the offense and projection of a full time second baseman. Slot his surplus value at $20M, and the Pirates have plenty of pieces to land David Price.
A combination of three should do the trick. I'm just surprised the Pirates are so interested.
Cornerstone: INF Jurickson Profar (MLB) - $50M; or 2B Rougned Odor (AA) - $45M
Odor split High- and Double-A last season, and only got better. I think the Rays could rightfully target him, given Profar's new-found place on the starting roster, after the Ian Kinsler trade. The hype is real.
In earlier discussions, we supplemented this trade with 3B Joey Gallo (AA), who'se torn up A-ball with a 163 wRC+ last season, and RHSP Connor Sadzeck (High-A), who is essentially filler. They combined to add at least $10M in surplus value and get us in range.
A few more names worth targeting are RHSP Luke Jackson (AA), C/DH Jorge Alfaro (High-A), and OF Nick Williams (High-A).
Jackson could be on the fast-track through the minors, especially if he keeps his walks under control and irons out his delivery. Alfaro has all the tools, including incredible bat speed, but does not have a secure defensive position, and has struggled through injury (In other words, he'll break your heart). Williams is a second round pick from 2012 that is on the outside looking in of the Top-100. He's got power. I'd mark each of these guys down for $6-9M.
The Rangers may need to pile on prospects to compete with the other teams, but their involvement in the rumors should continue to be justified as bidding ensues.
Toronto Blue Jays
Cornerstone: RHP Aaron Sanchez (High-A) - $35M; RHP Marcus Stroman (AA) - $20M
I honestly don't see a trade happening in the division, nor with the Blue Jays. Prospects that meet expectations are right handed starters Marcus Stroman and RHSP Aaron Sanchez, and like the Dodgers, the Blue Jays would need to offer both top arms to land a deal.
But that's in a vacuum, where we aren't considering the gutting trades with Miami and the Mets from last season. The Jays should be holding on to everyone with value. Feel free to disagree, but their inclusion seems strange.
I would expect the Jays to offer third base prospect Mitch Nay (Low-A) as well, who has been held back from significant playing time due to injuries. Reports say he commands the strikezone with middle of the order potential, and that his arm action is strong, but not enough to demand he stays at third. His value is somewhat ambiguous, but he's the nicest piece to add.
In the end, I don't think the Jays make sense for Price.
For more on trade values, read Michael Valancius's excellent research on assigning dollar values to prospects, and starting pitcher trades over the last three years.