Manager Joe Maddon told Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune that change is part of the Rays culture, and it's because of that reality that ace left-hander David Price is mentally preparing for a trade this offseason, writes Mooney. Price spoke to reporters on a conference call and offered the following take:
“If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded … This is a place I love to be. My teammates and everyone in the organization knows that. It's part of baseball and it's something I've seen go on, it's kind of something I somewhat prepared myself for."
Teammates Alex Cobb and Ben Zobrist both say that they try not to think about the fact that this could have been Price's final season with the team and that they hope the Rays find a way to retain him. However, as Price alluded to, the Rays have a history of selling high on their starters as their price tag begins to rise. Tampa Bay dealt Matt Garza to the Cubs when he had three years of team control remaining, and they traded James Shields last winter when Shields had two years of control remaining. Price, who earned just over $10.1MM in 2013, is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to see that number jump to $13.1MM in arbitration next year.
The 28-year-old Price was the first overall pick in the 2007 draft and has blossomed into one of the game's best pitchers, taking home the AL Cy Young Award in 2012. He had a "down season" by his standards in 2013 — partly due to a triceps injury that shelved him for more than a month — but still posted a 3.33 ERA with 7.3 K/9, a league-leading 1.3 BB/9 and 44.9 percent ground-ball rate.
If and when Price hits the trading block, he will instantly become one of the most sought-after trade targets in recent memory. Last winter, the Royals surrendered Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to acquire Shields and Wade Davis, and it's logical to imagine that Price could command a similar or even larger package. Like Shields, he has two years of team control remaining, but Price has been the more consistently dominant of the two since his 2010 breakout season.
Of course, the Rays could hang onto Price for another season and pay him the roughly $13MM he's owed as well. That would be more than the Rays have paid any player in the past, but it's a level they were comfortable committing to Evan Longoria on an average annual basis through the 2023 season. The team has $16MM coming off the books in free agent contracts in the form of Roberto Hernandez, Luke Scott, Kelly Johnson, Jose Molina, James Loney and Kyle Farnsworth, as well as non-tender candidates in Jeff Niemann (projected $3.4MM salary) and Sam Fuld ($900K). Niemann and Fuld combined to earn $3.725MM in 2013.