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david priceAlthough he’s dealt with a velocity decline, Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price might be having the best season of his career right now, at age 28. That’s good timing for the Rays, who will likely seek to deal their All-Star ace at some point before the non-waiver Trade Deadline at the end of this month.

Price knows the score, and admitted in an All-Star Game media session, per MLB.com, that he doesn’t know where he’ll be coming next month. He’d prefer to stick with the comfort of the Rays, but there are other teams – he declined to name – that he’d be happy to head to. Later in his comments, however, Price did specify one team by name, as far as the future is concerned:

“Winning is absolutely something you want to do,” Price said, again per MLB.com, as well as StlToday.com. “Being a part of something special is also something you want to do. You can take that to a first-place team, or you can take that to a last-place team like the Cubs. With the talent they have coming up, they could be a very special team in a few years as well. That would probably be the coolest city to win a championship in right now. They haven’t done it in I’m not sure how long. To do that there that would be the coolest city to win a championship in right now.”

Folks have talked about a Cubs-Price connection for years now, dating back to the Cubs’ hiring of Price’s former Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson to be the organization’s pitching coordinator. While that didn’t quite seem like enough to make a marriage, whenever you looked at timelines and needs, there were other reasonable explanations for seeing a fit.

Still, this is the first time we’re hearing anything quite like this straight from the horse’s mouth, and, although Price was ostensibly speaking generally, he chose to discuss the Cubs, unprompted. Obviously this is something he’s considered as he approaches free agency.

Stepping back …

Price is likely to be traded this month to a team that is not the Chicago Cubs, because the bulk of his trade value at this time comes in the form of what he can do for your team in 2014. For the Cubs, a non-competitive team, Price has virtually no value in 2014 – yet the Cubs would still have to pay for that value in trade in order to beat out the teams thatĀ would get extreme value from him this year.

As I wrote last month, however, you can’t entirely rule out the possibility that the Cubs could trade for PriceĀ after this season. The short version: he’s going to make a ton in arbitration for 2015, and a small market team that could trade for him now might prefer to unload him in the offseason. A team like the Cubs, which will need front-end pitching, which will have a prospect surplus from which to deal (though, given that it’s just one year of Price at a salary near $20 million, I wouldn’t expect the acquisition price to be enormous), and which will have salary space to add an expensive guy like Price, certainly makes sense.

And now, if the Cubs believe Price is inclined to want to sign up with the Cubs long-term?

You’ll have to read that piece from last month to get the complete sense of what I’m saying with respect to a Price trade. I leave it open as a plausibility, that’s all. The more salient question is whether the Cubs would pursue him as a free agent after 2015, and whether Price would sign on.

I still wouldn’t go too far with this, because the odds of a trade involving Price and the Cubs are small, and, absent that, projecting the Cubs to sign a 30-year-old (declining velocity, tons of career pitches) Price to a mega contract after 2015 is the kind of imprecise guesswork in which I’m not going to engage.

The way I read Price’s quote? All things equal – as in, contract offers – Price would like to come to the Chicago Cubs. I don’t think I’m being reactionary in saying that, because that “all things equal” part is a huge hedge. Who knows what the Cubs will look like in a year and a half, and who knows whether Price will have already signed an extension by then? Who knows whether the Cubs will be unwilling to offer a mega contract (given the current pitching climate, could you blame them?), or whether Price would have to choose between 6/$120 million with the Cubs, or 8/$200 with the Yankees? (And if he chose the latter, could you blame him?) Like I said: too much guesswork for now.

Instead, all we can say is: it sure is interesting to hear Price essentially admit that he sees a bright future for the Cubs, and sees the value in signing with a team like the Cubs. That could wind up mattering down the road for Price, specifically, but also for other free agents who perhaps see things the same way.

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