The Price is Right: Rays Shouldn’t Trade David Price

David Price to Tigers
David Price trade rumors
Oct 8 2013 St Petersburg FL USA Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price 14 watches from the dugout against the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning of game four of the American League divisional series at Tropicana Field Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports

With the Tampa Bay Rays being bounced in the playoffs by the Boston Red Sox, thoughts are naturally turning to next season. Even though the Rays reached the postseason, they could voluntarily be weakening their team as rumors of a potential David Price trade have begun to swirl. Heck, even Price himself expects to be dealt.

This is what Tampa Bay does so there’s no surprise here. Like other small market teams, they’ve built up a strong minor league system and are forced to deal players away once they become too expensive. That Price could be potentially dealt isn’t a surprise to anyone, but if the Rays decide to trade him this offseason, it would be a mistake.

For starters, Price is an asset. Investment 101 says you want to keep assets available for as long as you possible can. Price is one of the players on Tampa Bay that can draw fans to the game and it makes little sense to trade him now.

Then there’s the convenient fact that this is a playoff team. If the Rays were a basement-dweller with no real chance to make the postseason, the desire to trade him now would be a little easier to swallow. Tampa Bay, however, made the playoffs this season and could do so again next year. Trading Price before even finding out how good the team can be is the ultimate version of shooting yourself in the foot.

Also, don’t forget about that little thing we like to call goodwill. It’s already hard enough to get the area interested in baseball. Trading away the best players on a team (particularly ones that don’t have contracts that expire for a couple of more seasons) is sure to drive even the most ardent supporters away. The Rays have been down that road before, but in Price, a Cy Young winner, Tampa has a special player on their roster.

All of that said, it’s not that trading the ace would be the worst thing in the world. There have been some ridiculous returns by desperate teams at the trade deadline. For example, look at what the Texas Rangers did recently by dealing away plenty of young talent for Matt Garza. Despite Garza being a free agent in 2014, the Cubs still got a small fortune in return for his services – and he was a modest 10-6 with an ERA near 4.00. Their salaries this year were similar, but Garza is nowhere near Price in terms of ability, so it stands to reason that the Rays should be able to get a hefty amount for him before the trade deadline next year.

There’s talk that the Rays need to act quickly because under arbitration, Price’s salary could increase for 2014. ESPN projects it could rise to $13 million after Tampa Bay paid him $10 million this season. That’s a nice little raise, but hardly an amount that should force the Rays’ hand. If Tampa Bay holds onto him before a trade deadline, they should be able to command more for him – and the rights to another solid prospect (which they’ll likely hold for several more years after obtaining him) will easily be worth the pro-rated portion of a $3 million increase.

Trading Price next season or the season after that before he becomes a free agent in 2016 wouldn’t be a horrible move if the Rays are insistent that they can’t afford him. To do it now, however, before the market has truly reached his peak for him would be foolish.

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Anson Whaley
Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');