But the moment to say goodbye to their ace is not before the MLB trade deadline.
There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that the Rays are still very much in the postseason hunt. Yes, at 53-55, they are still eight games back in the AL East, but they are just 5.5 games back in the wild-card chase.
More importantly, they're red hot. They've now won 11 of their last 13 games, and we've all witnessed September magic from this team before.
Just ask the 2011 Boston Red Sox.
Plus, Price can't become a free agent until after the 2015 season, though it seems unlikely arbitration would go well for the Rays this winter. And Price will probably want more than the one-year, $14-million deal he signed this past season.
But the fact that they can deal Price in the offseason—and yes, MLB teams would still be quite interested in dealing for him—means the Rays can afford to make a run at the postseason with Price this year and deal him in the winter.
Losing Price would likely kill their postseason hopes. Price is once again one of the best pitchers in the American League, with a 11-8 record, 3.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 189 strikeouts in 170.2 innings pitched. Throwing in the towel right now simply doesn't make sense.
But just because the Rays shouldn't trade Price doesn't mean they won't. Joel Sherman of the New York Post is hearing the ace, indeed, will be dealt:
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1 adds another team to the mix:
And Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has more:
Meanwhile, coming into the day, Jayson Stark of ESPN heard from several executives about how the Rays would approach the Price situation:
Not that the asking price had come down. That part hasn't appeared to change appreciably since Wednesday, when another exec said the return would have to be a package so loaded that 'they couldn't say no.'
An American League executive described the Rays' approach this way: 'They know what they want to do,' he said at one point. 'If they get what they want, they'll do it in a heartbeat," he said at another point. "They want to do a deal, but they're not going to do it under value,' he said at a third juncture.
Give Price this—he's had a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
By the end of the trade deadline, we'll certainly know how the Rays view the rest of this season. If he's dealt, the team is throwing in the towel and building toward next year. If he isn't moved, however, the team has decided to make a push for the postseason.
It's a big decision, and even if the Rays want to keep him, they may receive an offer they simply can't refuse. More than likely he'll be dealt, but the Rays would be wise to keep him barring an absolutely huge return.
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