Joe Maddon's team has won nine in a row heading into Monday, and the team has its sights set on the playoffs despite having been 18 games under .500 at one point this season. At 51-54, the Rays are now 7.5 games out of first place in the American League East, but they are 4.5 games out of a wild-card spot. They are playing their best baseball of the season and hopes are high that the 2014 campaign can still be salvaged.
With that said, Tampa Bay should trade Price.
Yes, it would be heartbreaking to the fans in St. Petersburg. Yes, it could kill the spirits of a roster full of players who believe that October is within reach. And yes, it would appear as if the Tampa Bay front office was calling it quits on the season.
However, trading Price truly is the right move.
Not only is Price having one of the best seasons of his career, he is also not set to be a free agent until after the 2015 season, perhaps making him the most sought-after commodity on the market. With over a year of team control left and and his A-game on full display, Price's value is at an all-time high.
Price is currently 11-7 with a 3.08 ERA, 10.1 K/9 ratio, 1.2 BB/9 ratio, 1.039 WHIP and is leading the majors in strikeouts (183), innings pitched (162.2), games started (tied at 22) and batters faced (659).
Something Tampa Bay has to take into consideration is that once Price hits free agency, he is not coming back. The Rays could never afford to compete with the types of offers Price could receive. To give an idea as to what such an offer would look like, Cole Hamels, a fellow lefty, got a six-year, $144 million extension from the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2012, a deal that pays him an average of $24 million a year.
To give an idea of how far the Rays would come from such an offer, their highest paid player is currently making $14 million this season. That player is Price, and the only reason he is even getting that much is because of arbitration.
The Rays, at least within the front office, must also know that even if they do reach the playoffs this season, 2014 is most likely not their year. Sure, anything can happen in the postseason, but boy are the Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim good. Probably too good for a team like Tampa to overcome.
If the Rays find themselves in a Wild Card Game, Price is obviously the guy they want on the bump. But at what cost and what gain? So they can advance to the next round, get eliminated and then go through all this again next season with Price's value decreased, only to watch him walk away in free agency and get nothing in return?
It is not worth hanging on to him.
Not when the Los Angeles Dodgers' Joc Pederson is on the table. Not if the Seattle Mariners are prepared to ante up Taijuan Walker, James Paxton or Nick Franklin. Not if the Milwaukee Brewers offer some of their top prospects or even controllable major league talent.
Fox Sports' Jon Morosi offered his opinion via Twitter:
ESPN’s Jayson Stark seconded the notion of the Dodgers being the favorites to land Price. ESPN's and Sirius XM's Jim Bowden reported that the Rays are in fact still listening in on Price despite their recent success; however, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman believes that success could take Price off the market.
So it seems as if the Rays are not quite decided on keeping Price, at least when it comes to trading their star pitcher away this season.
What is meant by that is Price is leaving Tampa Bay one way or another. There is no "if," just when and how. The question here is: Are the Tampa Bay Rays going to get something out of his departure?
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com.
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