The time has come again for the Tampa Bay Rays to trade one of their cornerstone players — this time, David Price — because he’s about to make too much money.
The Rays have recovered well from this over the years, but not well enough to win a World Series.
That they win 90 games and make it to the playoffs is remarkable in and of itself, but their low-cost roster eventually dooms them. They lack the depth necessary to go as far as they want. I once asked manager Joe Maddon what he would do if he had more payroll flexibility. The answer was to retain some of their stars.
They made commitments to Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist when they were young and controllable and the dollars weren’t daunting, but they’ve had to bid adieu to Matt Garza and James Shields, and it appears Price could be the latest on the block.
Rays owners and executives are not resigned to this. They appear to be trying to figure out ways to make Price the focal point of their pitching staff for many years, but they know they’re losing the battle. So, this offseason the consensus among baseball executives — and even Price himself — is that Tampa general manager Andrew Friedman will try to make another Wil Myers-type deal, obtain a player or two that are major league-ready and plug them into the lineup or rotation.
Price, who earned $10.1 million this season and is eligible for arbitration, will have no shortage of interested teams, but not every team can realistically make a deal happen. First, the team trading for Price needs to be able to make a long-term financial commitment, and second, it must to be willing to relinquish at least a couple of their top five prospects.
What teams can even entertain this? The Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Twins, Cubs, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rangers, Angels, Giants, Mariners, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and maybe the Orioles. It’s hard to imagine the Rays would deal within their division, though if they got their bounty they may just throw caution to the wind.
Imagine a Dodgers rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Price, Hyun-jin Ryu (unless he was sent to the Rays in the deal), and a recovering Chad Billingsley? The Twins have countless prospects, as do the Cubs. The Twins may not have the financial resources to make it happen, but the Cubs surely do.
The Giants are looking to revamp their staff and could put together a package. The Angels have been burned by big contracts, but don’t be surprised if they take the plunge, and the Mets want to try anything to sell seats and restore faith in their fan base. Price would be a nice front man to their extraordinary young pitching talent.
The Rangers have the prospects and money to make it happen, but their main concern now is revamping their offense.
“It’s a big name, a big-time pitcher,” said one National League GM. “Even if you feel you don’t need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he’s so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you’ll see teams that don’t even need him step up.”
Which is why the Dodgers make sense. Which is why the Red Sox would make sense, even though they have six veteran starting pitchers.
The Red Sox have the prospects, and the resources to sign Price long term, but we’re talking about fierce rivals, so it would be difficult. As for the Yankees, they may not have the prospects the Rays want.
And who needs Price more than the Orioles? It would be a match made in heaven. The Orioles would finally get there ace, but how much would owner Peter Angelos commit salary-wise?
The Nationals have players to give up, as well as the resources to sign Price, who would then team with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez to form a pretty tough rotation.
Price will get an elite salary. At 28, it would probably be in line with CC Sabathia, signed a seven-year, $161 million deal, and then a five-year, $122 million extension. Price has a Cy Young under his belt, so there’s similar cachet.
“It’s a huge commitment, but one any team in contention would be willing to take for someone like him,” said an American League GM. “It’s not often you have an elite pitcher at that age out there like that. When teams are assessing, OK, who would I trade my best prospect for, David Price’s name would be on that list.”
Young gets all A’s in Oakland
So, why was pitching coach Curt Young so good with the Athletics before and after his one tumultuous year (2011) with the Red Sox?
I asked a few Red Sox officials about it, and here’s what one had to say:
“First of all, he was dealing with more of a veteran pitching staff in Boston. He had Josh Beckett, who kind of set the tone for the staff, and let’s face it, Josh wasn’t receptive to a lot of things toward the end of his career here. So Josh, I think, led the way, and the other pitchers kind of followed his lead. Curt was the best guy. He knew his stuff, and obviously the work he’s done in Oakland bears that out. It was a no-win situation for him. He was replacing John [Farrell], who was an imposing figure, a big guy who when he made his point, made his point and they listened.”
Beckett was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 2011, so he wasn’t that bad. Jon Lester went 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA, even better than he did this season, but he floundered in September. John Lackey was 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA, but he quite possibly was pitching with a bad elbow. Tim Wakefield was 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA, clearly on the back nine of his career.
“You think of it as not being that good, but it wasn’t that bad,” said the Red Sox official. “I think what made it all worse was the collapse and the poor pitching we had down the stretch. But you couldn’t fault Curt, we just didn’t have any pitchers.”
Bartolo Colon, the graybeard of the A’s staff this season, won 18 games. The A’s had such faith in Sonny Gray that they started him in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tigers over Colon. But Gray, who had shut the Tigers down, gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera to turn the tide.
Young brought along Jarrod Parker and rookie Dan Straily. He helped make Grant Balfour one of the best closers in the game. Other pitchers who have excelled under Young’s tutelage include Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Craig Breslow.
Yet he got to Boston and had to endure the collapse of September 2011. After the season he was told he could look for work elsewhere. The A’s rehired him and are thrilled to have him back.
Apropos of nothing
1. The Dodgers are going to make Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp or both available this offseason. Kemp, however, has become labeled with an injury, much like Troy Tulowitzki and Jacoby Ellsbury. But it won’t stop a team from taking a chance on his talent.
2. Intentional walks and defensive indifference remain my two baseball pet peeves.
3. Alex Rodriguez is seemingly suing everybody, but how about ’fessing up, taking the punishment, and moving on? Is that an option? And by the way, what I wrote last week about lawsuits opening up a can of worms for Major League Baseball? It doesn’t see it that way. It’s had a bring-it-on attitude, feeling it has nothing to hide.
4. Just as Carlos Beltran is perfect for the Orioles, Ellsbury is perfect for the Mariners.
5. According to a source familiar with manager salaries, there are 10 who earn less than $1 million a season, and at the top of the heap remains the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, whose contract is backloaded so he’s in the $6 million-$7 million range. Dusty Baker was up over $4 million a year before being let go by the Reds. Joe Girardi’s new deal with the Yankees is for four years at about $16 million, around the same annual value as deals two-time World Series champions Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Terry Francona of the Indians. Arguably the best manager in the game, the Rays’ Joe Maddon, is around 10th at $2 million.
6. Lou Piniella had a casual conversation about the Mariners job, and quickly dismissed it. At 70, he says his managing days are over.
7. Bryan Price of the Reds could be the next pitching coach to make the move to managing. He appears to be the front-runner to land the Reds job, though the Mariners are also interested. It also looks as if bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to become the Nationals manager, unless ownership is looking for a bigger name.
8. Chris Carpenter’s agent, Bob LaMonte, said the righthander will retire and “may have an opportunity to work for the Cardinals organization. Chris basically came back from five career-ending surgeries. I don’t think you’ll ever see anyone do that again. He had a sixth one and it was too many. He had a great career, a great human being.”
Updates on 9
1. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins — Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has tried at least 10 times to pry Stanton loose, with no luck. Tough sell inside the division. But with Dan Jennings now at the helm in Miami, who knows if the Marlins would let Stanton go? Stanton would draw interest from a lot of teams, including the Tigers, Mets, Mariners, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, and Red Sox, so Jennings could get a load of top prospects.
2. Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers — Despite reports by CBS Sports and speculation in the Detroit media, I don’t buy that Scherzer could be traded this offseason. Yes, the Tigers are trying to make room for Drew Smyly in the rotation, but at Scherzer’s expense? Scott Boras is Scherzer’s agent, and he may take it all the way to free agency after the 2014 season. But Boras has a good relationship with owner Mike Ilitch, so the Tigers would be in the driver’s seat. Regardless, the Tigers would have another year with Scherzer, so why not see if he can repeat this year’s performance? The Tigers have a window to win, and that window is through 2014.
3. Jon Lester, LHP, Red Sox — The Sox will likely pick up Lester’s $13 million option for next season and try to negotiate something long term. But if it’s not at a discount, Lester will likely test the waters. Will Lester be trade bait this offseason if the Red Sox don’t want to commit a lot of years at an average of $18 million-$20 million for him? You could see a scenario in which Lester joins the Rays’ David Price possible acquisitions. Lester has been a workhorse – five years of 200-plus innings. The Red Sox didn’t go big on the Wil Myers proposal with the Royals last season, but one of those could present itself again.
4. Jake Peavy, RHP, Red Sox — One of the Sox’ veteran pitchers will likely get dealt this offseason to make room for younger ones, and Peavy appears to be a candidate. Obviously, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront could be vulnerable, and we’ve already discussed Lester. But Peavy, who has performed well for the Red Sox, is still in demand.
5. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies — The Rockies will listen, but whether they can pull off a deal for a player with such a long contract (about $130 million remaining until 2021) would be the trick. Would he be an ideal replacement for Derek Jeter in New York? Of course. Would he be ideal for any team? Tulowitzki’s splits are skewed toward Coors Field, but he would likely adapt to any ballpark.
6. James Loney, 1B, Rays — Loney reestablished his place in the market with an excellent season, so where does the free agent go from here? Loney earned $2 million with the Rays, would love to return, but he likely wants to be paid more. Will the Rays pony up or will they look for the next bargain? Loney could have a market in Texas, which is looking for a first baseman.
7. Chase Headley, 3B, Padres — Headley is a classic case of someone who could be on the trade market. He is eligible for arbitration for the final time before free agency. The switch-hitter would likely garner considerable interest if the Padres make him available. They appear to be trying to sign him.
8. A.J. Burnett, RHP, Pirates — Burnett has told team officials that he either wants to return to the Pirates or retire. Burnett, 36, could always change his mind, but as a Pirates official pointed out, “He’s the type of guy at this stage of his career that is comfortable where he is. He doesn’t think he wants to go through all the adapting to a new place at this stage of the game.”
9. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees — Granderson will likely get a qualifying offer from the Yankees at $14 million and there’s a strong possibility he would take it. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be interest in the lefthanded slugger, whose swing plays so well at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers, Orioles, Blue Jays, Phillies, and even his former team, the Tigers, could have varying degrees of interest, but Granderson could put up the biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Aroldis Chapman led all relievers with 43 inning-ending strikeouts, followed by Kenley Jansen with 38 and Koji Uehara with 37.” Also, “Over the last five seasons, the Braves have the best ERA in baseball at 3.44, and did not get past the LDS in any of those years.” Happy birthday, Scott Cooper (46), Dick Pole (63), and Bob Bailey (71).
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.