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It's not a question of if, but when, the Tampa Bay Rays will trade 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price.
The 28-year-old left-hander struggled through an injury-filled first half of the 2013 season, but returned as strong as ever, pitching to a 2.87 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 15 second-half starts. Since he's under team control through the 2015 season, the fiscally-strapped franchise simply can't afford to sign him to a long-term deal.
As it is, the $13.1 million salary that Price is expected to receive in arbitration this winter—roughly a $3 million raise from his 2013 salary—will account for more than a sixth of Tampa Bay's total payroll.
Last month, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the Rays were unimpressed with the offers that they've received and, for the first time, were talking about holding onto Price for the entire 2014 season.
The team's asking price is very high, as you'd expect.
Tampa Bay asked the Cleveland Indians for catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana, right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar and shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor, among others, according to The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto.
The Toronto Blue Jays were asked about right-handed pitchers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, reported Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Seattle has the pieces it would take to land Price, but the team's reluctance to include pitching prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker in a potential deal—along with Price's agent, Bo McKinnis, stating that his client wouldn't sign an extension with the Mariners—make a deal highly unlikely.
That said, Price is one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, going 71-39 with a 3.19 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 3.06 K/BB ratio in parts of six seasons. While his value will never be higher than it is right now, the Rays are guaranteed to land a tremendous package of talent when they do decide to pull the trigger on a deal.
After the aforementioned Masahiro Tanaka and "The Big Three" sign, it wouldn't be surprising to see the trade winds circling Price pick up speed, as teams who miss out on one of the four free-agent pitchers could be motivated to meet Tampa Bay's asking price.