What the Dodgers Must Do to Pull Off Blockbuster David Price Trade
Those pesky Los Angeles Dodgers could be up to their old tricks this offseason, trying to ensure that a World Series comes to Hollywood for the first time since Kirk Gibson limped around the bases 25 years ago.
Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily, in talking to general managers around the league, noted the Dodgers could have the pieces in place to make a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays that would bring another Cy Young winner to their rotation:
But, suggests several general managers, the Dodgers can avoid the loss of their number one pick and the slot money if they trade for David Price and get Masahiro Tanaka from Japan. "They have the minor league talent to get Price," says one GM. "If they would trade Corey Seager and Julio Urias (the 17-year old lefthanded pitcher) and a couple out of Zach Lee, Joc Pederson or Chris Withrow, it would get it done."
It is important to note that Gammons isn't saying the Dodgers are in on Price, or will get in on him, just that their farm system looks very enticing to a team like the Rays to get a deal of this caliber done if they wanted to.
But are the players mentioned enough? How does Price's contract status change what the Rays will be thinking, especially in relation to other top-tier starting pitchers who have been traded in the past?
With so many possibilities to think about, here are our thoughts on whether the Dodgers could, or should, pursue Price in a trade this offseason.
What History Tells Us
The Rays are familiar with trading a star pitcher with two years of control left, dealing James Shields to the Kansas City Royals last winter for a package of players that included Wil Myers.
Price is a different animal because, when healthy, he's better than Shields. In fact, you could realistically argue he's one of the five best starting pitchers in the game.
That puts Price in a different stratosphere when it comes to trades. Even though teams are usually reluctant to part with cost-controlled starting pitching, there have been two instances in the last five years where a pitcher of Price's caliber has been traded with more than one year left on his contract.
|Player(s) Traded||From||To||Player(s) Acquired|
|Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco||Cleveland||Philadelphia||Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp|
The Cleveland Indians take center stage on the bad-trade front, dealing a reigning AL Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee just 12 months after moving CC Sabathia.
There was no reason for the Indians to rush into a Lee deal, because he still had one full season of control left after the 2009 season, but the front office opted to take the Phillies' bait.
The deal was widely panned for the Indians after it went down. Keith Law of ESPN (Insider subscription required) called it a "steal" for the Phillies, noting the only thing they gave up was stock inventory instead of impact talent.
It appears the Indians were in a full-blown panic to enter rebuild mode after everything fell apart the previous season, preventing them from fully exploring what should have been an intense bidding war for arguably the best left-handed pitcher in the game (at the time).
|Player(s) Traded||From||To||Player(s) Acquired|
|Zack Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt||Kansas City||Milwaukee||Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Jake Odorizzi|
The Milwaukee Brewers, two years removed from acquiring CC Sabathia, went after another Cy Young winner in the winter of 2010, Zack Greinke. Looking to shore up their rotation in an effort to increase their World Series chances with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun carrying the offense proved to be an easy task, though they would fall short of the ultimate goal.
The Royals, like the Indians with Lee, opted for quantity over quality.
Alcides Escobar has been the best player in the bunch as a defense-only shortstop. Lorenzo Cain is a part-time player who is great with the glove and nothing with the bat. Jake Odorizzi was moved to Tampa Bay in the Shields trade.
These deals have been so one-sided you wonder what the teams trading the star pitcher were looking at when they saw these prospects.
L.A.'s Side of the Equation
My first thought upon seeing the Dodgers could get in on Price was skepticism. I didn't think the system was good enough or deep enough to entice a team as thorough in its analysis of players like Tampa Bay.
Then, after thinking about the names mentioned, it made sense for the Dodgers to be in the mix. Corey Seager (No. 1-ranked prospect in L.A.'s system, according to Mike Rosenbaum) has the potential to be an All-Star third baseman.
Joc Pederson (No. 2 L.A. prospect) and Julio Urias (No. 3 L.A. prospect) would make for strong secondary pieces in the deal. All three of these players are top-100 prospects with high ceilings.
These are the kinds of talents a team will need to have and be willing to part with in order to get the Rays listening. I'm not saying it would be enough to get them to say yes, but it's at least a start.
The Dodgers would also have to factor in whether they want to take on Price's escalating arbitration salary the next two years and potentially sign him to an extension somewhere along the lines of what recent ace pitchers Justin Verlander (seven years, $180 million) and Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175 million) got.
If the Dodgers just decide they only want Price for the next two years to keep costs relatively at ease, which is hard to say when they are already spending well over $200 million, that might give them some flexibility.
Which pitcher is more likely to be a Dodger in 2014?
Another problem for the Dodgers trying to acquire Price is how arbitration will factor into the payroll when they are trying to sign Clayton Kershaw to an extension.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported in October that the Dodgers offered Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, an extension in the range of $300 million.
With Kershaw's salary likely to spike before the 2015 season, if he gets a deal with the Dodgers done, how much can they afford to spend on Price in the final year of arbitration?
Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com reported the team is willing to spend this offseason if it can fill a hole on the roster. Of course, with Kershaw and Greinke at the top of the rotation, starting pitching wouldn't seem to be a huge area of need.
You can never underestimate the need for starting pitching, as the Dodgers found out in the playoffs against St. Louis once they got to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco.
Gurnick's report also noted the Dodgers will have $30 million coming off the payroll this winter, though there are escalating salaries for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Greinke, Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig to consider.
If money is no object and dealing from a top-heavy farm system is no problem for the Dodgers, which it hasn't been recently, Price makes a lot of sense as the third ace in the rotation.
Tampa Bay's Side of the Equation
The Rays hold all the cards with anyone interested in David Price. With two years left before he hits free agency, the team could explore all the trade options this winter and take the best one out there.
However, if there isn't a deal that entices them to the extent they are looking for, it's hard to imagine the Rays having a problem entering 2014 with one of the best pitchers in the game and making a run at a World Series.
It's hard to know exactly what the Rays front office is thinking at a given moment because we don't have their financial situation directly in front of us. Price made $10 million last year, his second time eligible for arbitration.
The payroll has been just over $60 million in each of the last two years. If that figure holds next season, factoring in a raise of around $2-4 million, Price could account for nearly 25 percent of the entire payroll.
How does one team remain successful with one player accounting for so much of the payroll? The Rays defy all logic when it comes to small-market teams, so all I can say is they know what they are doing.
Their farm system is no longer the pipeline of talent it used to be because all their success at the MLB level pushes them to the back of the first round in drafts and limits the amount of money they can spend on the international market.
Adding impact talent like Seager, Pederson and Urias would do wonders for a team that lives and dies based on the farm system.
If I were to offer a prediction on Price, it would be that he gets moved. But I can't see Los Angeles being the spot where he lands. I believe the Dodgers could put together a package the Rays like, but trades are so volatile.
All it would take is one team offering a better player than Seager to get the Rays thinking twice. That we can even talk about Price going to the Dodgers speaks volumes about how good this franchise has been at keeping the farm system strong enough to land a top-flight starting pitcher.
I still think the top priority for general manager Ned Colletti has to be re-signing Clayton Kershaw. Everything else will work itself out.
Note: All contract info courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.
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