The Tampa Bay Rays are one of the best run organizations in Major League Baseball, in spite of being the least valuable organization in MLB according to Forbes – and much of that is due to the fact that they play in an absolute dump of a stadium. It is poorly lit, there seems to be no real rhyme or reason behind its design, and it’s in a very poor location which is why they finished last in total home game attendance yet again.
If they had a better stadium to play in, one that actually feels like it’s worthy of housing a professional sports team, and were also in a better location then the biggest decision of their winter would like be a no-brainer.
All-Star starting pitcher David Price is eligible for arbitration for the third time and is likely to make at least $13MM according to MLB Trade Rumors. If the Rays had attendance numbers even in the middle of the pack of the American League they could afford to keep Price around for a while longer. Because they are unable to draw enough fans to the ballpark to help boost important revenue to increase payroll they are left with the unenviable choice of trading him over the winter or trading him before the 2014 trade deadline.
To express just what David Price means to this organization and just what he’s contributed to help turn the organization into a perennial playoff contender, he is second all-time in wins (71) with the team, he leads in career ERA (3.19), second in games started (147), and is second in career fWAR (18.8). The only starter ahead of him in any of those categories, and most others, is James Shields who was traded away to the Kansas City Royals just last year.
When it comes to long-term contracts for players, whether they were home-grown studs or free agent pick-ups, the only major contract this organization has given out was to third baseman Evan Longoria. They have him locked up through 2022 and essentially signed him to a 15 year contract that began in 2008, was worth a total of $144.5MM, and for the most part guarantees that Longoria with be a Ray for life.
The only good news, if that’s what you would call it, is that David Price would command a much larger return than what the team got for James Shields from the Royals – and they managed to get rookie sensation Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, along with third base prospect Patrick Leonard.
Of course, the downside to having a player that would command such a large package of prospects and other talent in exchange limits the number of teams that have what it takes to even make a deal possible.
If I had to handicap the team most likely to make an aggressive push to acquire Price then it would have to be the Texas Rangers. Not only do they have the depth in their farm system to put together a quality package the Rays would find acceptable, they also could put together one of the most formidable one-two punches as far as the starting rotation is concerned with Yu Darvish and David Price. The Rangers have also been keeping tabs on Price and the going rate for him for well over a year now.
What kind of package would it take to land one of the most dominant left-handed starters in the American League?
To answer that question I reached out to Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball.
The most obvious package would be Jurickson Profar for Price.
Alternatively, the Rays have been after Craig Gentry for a couple of years now, and I believe they would be intrigued by Rougned Odor. A Martin Perez/Gentry/Odor package would probably get a deal done, although I'm not sure that the Rangers would be willing to give up Perez.
You could also take the Gentry and Odor pieces, and add a couple of other guys...maybe Luke Jackson, plus a couple of the toolsy guys the Rangers had a low-A this year, Gallo/Mazara/Guzman/Brinson/Williams.
How much better of a package is that when compared to the package they got from the Kansas City Royals for James Shields though?
Well, it wasn't just Shields, it was Shields and Wade Davis (and Elliot Johnson, although Davis was the other valuable piece). Profar has more value than Wil Myers did, and of the three other guys the Royals kicked in, only Odorizzi had much value...Odorizzi was probably close to the price for Davis. Profar is probably roughly equal to Myers, Montgomery and Leonard.
As for a Perez/Gentry/Odor package...I'd probably say that that is pretty close to the value the Royals gave up. However, I don't know that the Rays are going to get more for Price than they did for Shields. Part of the appeal of Shields was that he was under contract for $9M last year and $12M in 2014. Price also has two years of control left, but he'll probably get $15M in arbitration in 2014 and $20M in 2015. That not only limits the number of teams that are going to be able to afford him, it’s going to depress what teams are willing to give up for him.