Now that this Masahiro Tanaka business is over with, maybe David Price will finally be traded.
If you missed Wednesday's news, Tanaka ended up with the New York Yankees on a $155 million contract (plus a $20 million posting fee). He was the only real ace to be found on the open market, so teams that still want one might now turn to the trade market for an answer.
And that, of course, entails giving the Tampa Bay Rays a call about Price.
Our goal here is to run through the teams that look like the top suitors for the ace lefty with Tanaka off the market. I'm thinking there are five that make sense, plus one that doesn't make sense but might surprise everyone.
Let's take it away...
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.
Yeah, I know. No way, right?
Pretty much. The Cubs making a deal for Price would mean sacrificing a good chunk of the prospect depth they've built up in recent years. And since Price only has two years of club control left, it would mean putting the team in "win now" mode at a time when it's not even close to ready for that.
So yeah, a bit of a long shot. But still...maybe...
We know the Cubs really wanted Tanaka, to a point where Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com says they were willing to go as high as six years and $120 million for him. Had they landed him, they would have acquired a needed ace and thrown a bone to a fanbase that sure could use one.
Right now, that same fanbase might be thinking, "Typical."
That's not a happy thought for Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who has been called out as a cheapskate by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports and come under enough criticism in general to necessitate Theo Epstein coming to his defense. So maybe, just maybe, Ricketts will be desperate enough for some positive attention to order his front office to get something done.
It's a possibility I highly doubt will come to fruition, yet a possibility I just can't...quite...ignore...
The Angels never seemed like the team to beat in the Tanaka sweepstakes, but it's worth noting that Japan's Sports Hochi (via Halos Heaven) reported that they did make it to Tanaka's list of finalists.
One thing that's for sure is that the Angels did have a need for Tanaka. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are good, but there's still a dropoff after them in the Angels' rotation. That same dropoff contributed to Angels starters finishing in the bottom third of MLB in ERA last season, so making it go away is in their interest.
Maybe the Angels will simply move on now and take their chances with what they have. Or they could conclude that, yeah, they probably should add a big piece to their rotation before the winter is out, at which point Jerry Dipoto could put in a call to the Rays about Price.
What's good is that Price would fit better into the Angels' financial situation than Tanaka would have. He'll make $14 million in 2014, $8 million less than Tanaka.
What's not so good is that the Angels are lacking in young talent. Baseball America has their farm system as the No. 27 system in MLB. It would take all they have to get the Rays to listen, and maybe even that wouldn't be enough for a deal.
So barring some major creativity on Dipoto's part, the Angels are a long shot.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted in October that the Rangers would be a team to watch in both the Price and Tanaka sweepstakes. At the time, that sounded about right.
But then Jon Daniels tied up a bunch of money in Prince Fielder and a bunch more money in Shin-Soo Choo. In doing so, Daniels all but took the Rangers out of the running for Tanaka.
And yet, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com wrote that the Rangers would be monitoring Tanaka. There was still a place for him in their rotation, after all. And when Derek Holland was suddenly lost for half of 2014 with a knee injury, you might have found yourself thinking, "Hmmm..."
FanGraphs' WAR placed Holland as the 11th-best starter in MLB last year. Losing him for half the year could cost the Rangers a couple of wins, and a couple of wins could cost them the AL West and possibly a wild-card spot now that the Yankees look like a much stronger contender with Tanaka in the fold.
The Rangers didn't have the cash to spend on Tanaka, but they do have the resources to trade for Price. Jurickson Profar is likely off-limits, but beyond him is the rest of a farm system Baseball America has down as the fourth-best in baseball.
Texas is one of very few teams in MLB that clearly has the goods to do business with the Rays. If Daniels decides his need for Price is big enough, something might get done.
The Mariners were the dark horse in the Tanaka sweepstakes. ESPN's Dan Szymborski (subscription required) argued that they needed him more than any other team, and at one point Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported that there was "talk around the game of the Mariners being heavily involved" with Tanaka.
Obviously, it didn't happen. And really, you get the sense it was never really close to happening.
But Szymborski's point that the Mariners badly needed Tanaka? That's still worth referencing because, shoot, the Mariners still need somebody in their rotation to support Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Maybe Price could be that guy. There was plenty of talk earlier in the winter of the Mariners trading for him as a big follow-up to their signing of Robinson Cano. There were questions involved, but they didn't concern whether the Mariners have the pieces to do business with the Rays. They do.
The Mariners have been largely quiet since the winter meetings, and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal's report that Price wouldn't sign an extension with them might be a deal-breaker. They might be done.
But since they need a guy like Price in order to be good, and because they signaled with the Cano signing that they want to be good, let's not rule them out.
"The Arizona Diamondbacks cannot be ruled out as major players," warned Ken Rosenthal in early January, referring to Tanaka. If they could make a spirited run at Choo, then they certainly could with Tanaka.
And they did, staying in the running right up until the bitter end. Team president Derrick Hall even went so far as to say, via MLB.com, that they were "very close" to getting the right-hander.
Color me not surprised. The Diamondbacks did move the needle when they traded for Mark Trumbo, but even then they didn't seem content. They've been giving off signals all winter that they want to do something really big.
As ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted in December, an elite starter is at the top of Arizona's wish list. Since they didn't fill that need with Tanaka, Price looks like a logical Plan B. And even after trading Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Davidson, they probably still have enough young talent to get something done. They did, after all, begin the offseason with Baseball America's No. 9 farm system.
The D-Backs would be going all-in for the next two years if they were to get Price. But given how loaded the Los Angeles Dodgers are, they might have no other choice.
But speaking of the Dodgers...
Shoot, who else did you expect to see atop this list?
It always did feel like Tanaka was going to end up with either the Dodgers or the Yankees. They both wanted him, they're the richest teams in the league and both fancy themselves as World Series contenders, so two plus two equals four.
But as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick wrote, it's hardly a shock that it was the Yankees who ended up with Tanaka. The Dodgers wanted him, but they didn't need him like the Yankees did. Their own bid was apparently barely north of $100 million.
Still, if the Dodgers wanted another ace for their rotation badly enough to drop nine figures on one, it stands to reason they're not going to just shrug their shoulders and walk away. And Price, naturally, is the best possible option for them to fall back on.
Dealing for Price would presumably require the Dodgers to rid their farm system of what precious elite talent (Joc Pederson, Zach Lee and/or Corey Seager) it has, but Price would elevate their rotation to the best in baseball and the team's odds of winning the World Series in 2014 to about where the Dodgers want them to be.
If somebody's going to deal for Price, the Dodgers still look like the team to do it.