Even in a medium as restrictive as Twitter, I appreciate that ESPN’s Buster Olney preceded this tweet with a caution that he’s just speculating:
Speculation: TB wants a high-end position prospect for Price & the M's don't have 1 to give, Cubs would be a great fit as third team in deal
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 18, 2014
We won’t regard it as anything more than that, in that case, although these guys tend not to completely pull stuff out of nowhere (in this instance, the “legit” appears to be the talks between the Mariners and Rays about David Price, and the lack of an elite, impact prospect in the deal). But it sure is a funny, round-about way for the Cubs to get involved in a David Price trade.
I don’t think it particularly likely that the Cubs would get involved, but these kinds of situations do lend themselves to a little bit of panic leverage – if both of the other two teams are desperate to make a deal, but can’t pull it off without you, then you might be able to extract a little more value than you otherwise would.
How could that look in a three-teamer here? Well, at its simplest level, you’d have the Cubs parting with one of their elite positional guys (name withheld because this is all merely a thought exercise and because there is a group of ’em), who would head to the Rays. Price would then head to the Mariners for young pitching/pitching prospects, who come over to the Cubs. Played right, the Cubs would net more for that elite positional guy than they could if they tried to swing a simple two-team deal (the theory being the M’s want Price enough to “overpay” in assets that the Rays don’t really want, and the Rays want one of the Cubs’ elite positional guys so much that they’re willing to forgo that “overpayment” for the positional guy).
In practice, does it play out that way? Eh, I have trouble seeing it, because the Rays aren’t in the business of getting any short ends of the stick. If the M’s will “overpay” for Price, then the Rays will simply take that overpayment, and parlay it on their own however they need to. It’s not like the Rays don’t need pitching, too. And further, if what the M’s have to offer isn’t enough for Price, then I’m not so sure it’s going to interest the Cubs, either. Would you trade one of the Cubs’ top prospects for Taijuan Walker? I’m not so sure I would, even as awesome as Walker may someday be. Equivalent value positional guys are simply better bets these days.
Ultimately, three-team deals are rare for a reason – it’s just hard to put together a deal where all three teams feel like they’re getting sufficient value to pull the trigger. That’s probably especially true with guys as smartly parsimonious with assets as Epstein/Hoyer/Friedman.
In any case, go wild on Olney’s speculation. It’s Friday, and it’s fun.