We’ve discussed the trade market impact, for the Cubs, of David Price being moved by the Rays, so I won’t rehash. Suffice it to say, there’s a relationship at play, and, if Price is moved out of the AL East for a high cost, it helps the Cubs, or if the Rays decide to keep Price, it helps the Cubs. If he’s shopped within the AL East and is let go for a song, that ain’t good.
Recently, Rays’ head of baseball operations and GM Andrew Friedman conceded to the New York Times that trading players in Price’s situation – increasingly expensive and approaching free agency – is just about the only way the Rays can continue to be competitive. In other words, it would seem he was saying a Price trade is a lock.
But then Friedman said that, right now, prospects are “really overvalued” in the game, and “the attrition rate and the hit rate isn’t factored in nearly enough or appreciated enough.”
All in all, it still sounds like the team plans to trade Price, but are Friedman’s comments an indication that he’s finding the market soft for Price right now? And, if so, is that the product of offers coming down in recent years (in part, probably, thanks to pitcher deal after deal that is perceived as a huge win for the seller – Shields, Feldman, Garza, Dickey, etc.), or of teams not valuing Price where Friedman thinks they should?
After all, Price’s value is kind of a tricky one. If you’re the Rays, you argue that he’s a top ten arm in the game, making him enormously valuable. The numbers bear that out, Price is still relatively young, and he comes with a year and a half of control. If you’re a suitor, on the other hand, you see the velocity dip and the extremely high mileage on Price’s arm, and you see that he makes a ton of money this year, and will be borderline free-agent-priced in his final year of arbitration last year, and you question how much surplus value there is in a trade for Price.
Does this necessarily mean the market is soft for all pitchers right now? Or at least for the closest similar piece out there, Jeff Samardzija? It’s hard to say. Maybe Friedman is being unrealistic. Maybe there are particularized concerns about Price that don’t exist for Samardzija. Or maybe teams are just being stingy right now because we’re still four-plus weeks away from the Trade Deadline.
For his part, however, Price has recently suggested that he sees a sentiment change, telling Marc Topkin that he thinks he’ll still be in Tampa after July 31. The predicate for his feelings, however, is a short run by the Rays of winning five of their last six games, and eight of their last twelve. The reality is that, with the Trade Deadline coming later this month, the Rays are 13 games under .500. They are 9.5 games back in the crowded AL East, with all four other teams ahead of them.
It’s impossible to see the Rays becoming playoff contenders by the end of the year, let alone quickly enough to stave off some trades.
In other words, Price’s thoughts notwithstanding, I do still think he’ll remain on the trade market. I also think, Friedman’s frustration notwithstanding, he’ll be traded this month. If the Rays wait until the offseason, not only does a trading partner lose the *huge* value associated with having Price for the stretch run this year, they also will have to foot the bill for Price’s 2015 arbitration salary, which could be only a few million dollars shy of what he’d make in free agency. How much is that worth?
Not nearly as much as Price is worth right now, soft market or not.