Can the Rays figure out how to keep David Price for one more year?
Sure, it fits the narrative that the Rays would trade away their star pitcher, who is in the last two years of his contract, in return for prospects to keep costs low and production high. Even Price is prepared to be dealt elsewhere with that in mind.
That scenario, however, requires that another team is first willing to meet the Rays' demand for a trade.
When the Rays traded James Shields to the Kansas City Royals, they received a lot in return, most notably top prospect Wil Myers, who was ranked the fourth-best minor league prospect prior to the 2013 season by Baseball America.
In addition, top pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery were sent to Tampa Bay in the transaction.
Keep in mind that Shields made $9 million in 2013 with his most notable career achievement having been limited to one All-Star Game in 2011.
If it costs another organization its top prospect plus additional prospects for Shields, how much is Price, a former Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star, worth?
Conventional wisdom would have to assume that it would take more for Price than Shields. This leads to more questions than definitive statements regarding the likeliness of a transaction involving him.
Is there a team in the majors desperate enough for an ace coming off of a year with an injury to literally give away the farm? Would the Rays demand a major league player rather than a top prospect for Price? Do the Rays feel they have enough remaining pitching to win 90 games in 2014?
The last question is another reason that the Rays could keep Price.
There are not as many up-and-coming arms in Tampa Bay's stable as it has had in years past who are ready to take the major league mound. Matt Moore, coming off his first All-Star season, is expected to take over at the top of the Rays' rotation after Price.
After that, the list begins to get questionable. Jeremy Hellickson did not have the type of season that screams of being the second starter in the rotation. His 5.17 ERA was the second worst in the American League in 2013.
Chris Archer, was streaky and inconsistent. He showed a glimpse of greatness in July, giving up only three earned runs in five starts. He followed that by giving up 14 earned runs in August and had a September in which he only lasted six innings twice in games before being pulled.
Even with the on-field need, it still comes down to the price for Price.
If you look at Felix Hernandez’s deal, it is clear to see the financial value of Price. Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star, is set to make over $22 million in 2014 as part of his seven-year, $175 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.
The Rays, clearly still have a very real need for Price in the rotation for 2014. Even if his arbitration salary increases from $10.1125 million to $13 million, as suggested by Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times, Price is still well under market value.
Will David Price pitch for the Rays next season?
The Rays could make some adjustments to make enough money available to sign Price without increasing their overall team salary too much. Outfielder David DeJesus has a $1.5 million buyout in his contract which the team could use to re-sign him for less than his $6.5 million team option.
The Rays could part ways with pitcher Jeff Niemann ($3 million) and find cheaper alternatives for pitcher Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million), designated hitter Luke Scott ($2.75 million) and pitcher Roberto Hernandez ($3.25 million).
Historical evidence strongly indicates the Rays will trade away Price with two years remaining on his deal. However, if there is a team that will find a way to keep a pitcher worth over $20 million on the roster for $13 million, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays.
All statistics and salary information courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.