Tuesday was pretty crazy. Like, 37 players got traded and stuff.
Wednesday ... wasn't as crazy. David Price got traded to the Mariners, except not really. Then he might have been traded to the Pirates, except not really that time, either. I mean, really not really. The Pirates were linked to Price in Jeff Passan's latest. A bunch of other teams were linked to Price, too. Here, see for yourself!
The, , , , , and 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.
A number of baseball officials believe the Mariners are a strong candidate to acquire Price, especially if they land free-agent second baseman. The Mariners have considered including 21-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker as part of a deal for Price, sources told Yahoo Sports, knowing he represents the sort of frontline player the Rays would seek in such a trade. Packaging him along with a young middle infielder (Nick Franklin or Brad Miller) and other prospects would constitute a difficult-to-top offer – and give the Mariners a rotation of Price, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, the best 1-2-3 in the major leagues.
I suppose we should wait until the Mariners actually acquire Price before we test the thesis that Price-Felix-Iwakuma (or, more precisely, Felix-Price-Iwakuma) would be baseball's best 1-2-3. Just off the top of my head, though? The Tigers' top three is tremendous, and it's probably too soon to assume that Iwakuma's going to be a Cy Young candidate every year.
But yes, Price would make for a scary rotation. And yes, there's every reason to think the Rays will trade him. Just a year ago, James Shields had two years and $21 million on his contract, and the Rays traded him. Today, Price is under club control for two more seasons, but he's arbitration-eligible in both seasons and figures to earn at least $25 million over the two seasons. Granted, trading Price might be more painful than trading Shields, because the Rays were better-stocked with starters a year ago. But they can cope. Even without Price, they've got a solid top four in Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson. And the fifth slot might be perfect for Jake Odorizzi ... who the Rays cadged from the Royals in the Shields deal. Odorizzi still hasn't won a game in the majors, but in limited action his numbers look a lot like Archer's and Cobb's.
The Rays won without Shields and they can probably win without Price. Somehow, they're able to do what everyone says can't be done: field competitive squads year after year while spending very little money.
Now, about all those other teams ... May I be the non-first to say that the Mariners would be half-crazy to trade for Price? The window's just not there. Sure, signing Canó would make the M's better. But not better enough to think that adding Price puts them over the top in 2014 or '15. After which he's probably gone. A year ago, the Royals traded their best hitting prospect and their (then) best pitching prospect for Shields. Granted, the Royals didn't also add a great player like Canó. But the M's lost 91 games last season, and there are three good teams in their division. To have any real chance, they would have to sign Canó and trade for Price and pick up eight or ten wins somewhere else. Maybe some of that comes from Mike Zunino's natural maturation. But the outfield remains a region-wide disaster, and I just don't see them coming up with enough hitters to compete next season. Which is exactly (again) what happened to the Royals last season.
Which leaves 2015. Assume more maturation and maybe another big move, and you can dream a little about 2015. But do you really trade your best young pitcher and one of your best young hitters for a chance at a dream? I don't. But Jack Zduriencik wasn't given another contract to restock the farm system. It's pretty clear that he's been given a mandate to win now, or at least try:
Zduriencik on mega-deals: "You have to adapt to the market. In some cases, if you have to stretch more than you want to, you just have to."— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) December 4, 2013
Well. Okay then. If you have to, you have to. This seems like a reference to Robinson Canó, but you don't commit more than $200 million to an eternity of Canó unless you've got other big moves in mind. So while I don't think the Mariners should trade for Price, we shouldn't be surprised if they do.
And all those other teams? The Pirates might have the greatest need. Last season was brilliant, as they came so close to reaching the League Championship Series. It was a storybook season, but to really keep their fans coming back, the Pirates can't revert to their old selves in 2014. They don't necessarily need to reach the playoffs again. But they probably do need to try real hard. But with A.J. Burnett leaving via free agency and the rotation jam-packed with question marks, the Pirates seem at least a starting pitcher short. I'm not usually a fan of selling the farm ... But if you're going to do it, this is the spot. And even if they trade two of their best prospects, the Pirates will still have an impressive group of young players.
And the Pirates might be the only one of those teams that really can "put together the sort of package" it would take to get Price. We know what it takes; roughly speaking, it takes one Grade A prospect (like Wil Myers) and one Grade B+ prospect (like Jake Odorizzi). The Pirates and the Mariners have those prospects (and I'm defining "prospects" loosely here, so counting guys like Nick Franklin and Brad Miller). So do the Twins, the Red Sox, the Orioles, the Astros, the Mets, and maybe the Royals ... but not the Dodgers, the Angels, the Rangers, the Diamondbacks, or the Blue Jays.
Well, maybe the Diamondbacks. If they're willing to trade A.J. Pollock and Archie Bradley. But I don't see a real need for Price there, plus trading Pollock (or for that matter, Adam Eaton) would leave a huge hole in the outfield.
Hey, anything's possible. But if I'm the Rays, I'm talking to the Mariners and the Pirates. Because they've got the future stars. When you trade James Shields or David Price, you gotta get a star.