Keeping with the theme, my next 'Sign or Trade' installment centers around Tampa Bays Rays' 28-year-old pitcher David Price. This season will be his seventh in a Rays uniform and while he'll be eligible for arbitration one more time before he potentially hits free agency in 2016, Price has been the subject of several trade rumors.
He plays for a contender in Tampa, but in that same breath they are a small-market club who are very particular with how much money they're willing to offer for an extension. As was the case with James Shields, Price may very well find himself traded for a handful of potential value.
Would that be the right decision? Let's take a look.
David Price by the numbers
The 2009 season was the worst of Price's career. It was also his first full season as a starter. In 23 starts spread out over 128 innings, he posted an ERA/ERA-/FIP- line of 4.42/104/109 with a strikeout and walk rate of 18.3% – 9.7%.
His career numbers by comparison show a much improved Price from his rookie season, with a line of 3.19/81/86 – not to mention a strikeout and walk rate of 22.1% to 7.2%. From 2010 to the present, Price has not posted an ERA higher than that of 3.49.
He was runner-up for the Cy Young Award in 2010, won the award in 2012, and is a three-time All-Star. Whether it is in Tampa or somewhere else in the next couple of seasons, Price will find a home with a lucrative and deserved offer waiting for him.
The 2012 season was clearly Price's best as it not only produced his greatest numbers statistically but also won him the Cy Young award. Over 31 starts and 211 innings of work, he posted a line of 2.56/66/77 with a career-best strikeout rate (24.5%) and a walk rate that almost matched his then-best 6.9% mark from 2011 (7.1%).
2013 saw his numbers dip significantly by comparison, but it was evident that the Rays didn't set Price up with much run support. He started four less games this past season (27) but posted a career-high 4 complete games to go along with a line of 3.33/88/80. His strikeout rate dropped marginally to 20.4% but so did his walk rate: from 7.1% to 3.7%. So while his number of strikeouts from 2012 (205) dropped to 151 in 2013, the number of walks allowed in 2012 (59) also dropped significantly in 2013 to 27.
Price is on the books for $14MM entering this season, a deal to avoid arbitration totaling more than he's ever made in one season. If he is able to put up similar numbers to those of his past, there's no reason he would get any less than that per season for the next four or five years. Is it worth it for Tampa to retain him, or will the cost be too steep?
This one could go either way for me. In all honesty Price is unlikely to get any cheaper going forward, but he is the man they need to keep around. He'll still be just 29 years old when the season ends and arguably in his prime. How much he will cost is the question, however.
I have no doubt that Price would love to remain in Tampa. Since 2008 the Rays have rarely gotten it wrong, winning 90 games or more five times in six seasons and making the playoffs on four occasions. Unfortunately for them they've only appeared in the World Series once in that time span. They were defeated 4 games to 1 at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Several people will point to the James Shields – Kansas City Royals trade from the last off-season and say 'Well if they got the eventual AL Rookie of the Year for a 31-year old, they could get more for Price!”
Yes, while good, Shields is inferior to Price. And yes, Price is a few years younger. However, most teams neither have the prospects nor the desperation to “win now” like the Royals did last season. They paid a steep price for Shields because they were all-in for the 2013. As it turns out, the Royals are unlikely to keep Shields past the 2014 season. Will it have been worth it? Only if they make a run this year.
Regardless of what the Rays decide to do, their moves rarely backfire. I don't expect them to be out of the playoff race by mid-season despite the competitiveness of the AL East, but an extension will ideally need to come sooner than later. He's already been pegged as the Opening Day starter which gives you an indication of how the Rays view Price. He is their ace, plain and simple.
One thing to consider: their 2013 payroll was barely north of the $57MM mark, the fifth-lowest in all of baseball last year.
If traded, would the Rays fetch a bigger package than the one Kansas City dealt them for Shields? Not a chance. If Price performs this season how he has his entire career, anything but a long-term extension to remain with Tampa Bay would surprise me.
Because eventually, a trade like this will backfire.
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