David Price's surname has lent itself to many a variation of the "Price is right" headline, but will he actually get dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline?
The Rays have been winning of late, staying vaguely alive in the American League East and Wild Card chases, and that complicates an already difficult situation. The Rays could let things play out, keep Price (on whom they hold one more full season of contractual control) into the winter and see what the market bears then. But given what the Rays experienced last winter, when the free-agent market diluted Price's trade value, that, too, might be a risky course.
It's the hottest topic in baseball right now. Where -- if anywhere -- will Price go? Who is in the best position to land him?
Here's what MLB.com columnists Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice and Phil Rogers think.
1. Which club needs Price the most?
Castrovince: The Mariners. Among the clubs who have what I would consider a realistic shot to land Price, Seattle has the longest postseason drought -- 13 years and counting. And while the current market likely doesn't present an opportunity for a dramatic upgrade to the Mariners' offense, it does present a chance to assemble an all-world rotation. Put Price with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and maybe it doesn't bridge the gap separating the M's from the A's, but it would put Seattle in an ideal position to both nail down a Wild Card spot and be well-situated for the Division Series, should they advance.
Justice: The Yankees. Price might be the difference in them making and missing the playoffs, but it isn't going to happen. The Yankees don't have the prospects to make it happen, and the Rays would rather trade him to a National League team. Price is so good that he'd make every contender better, and with so little offensive help available, a team that would otherwise be shopping for offense might end up making a play for Price. For instance, the Mariners. Price is a potential game changer for the Orioles, Angels, Braves, Brewers, Giants and Dodgers. Of those six teams, the Dodgers have the prospects, and the aggressive mindset, to make a deal. Likewise, the Cardinals have the prospects to make a deal for Price.
Rogers: The Orioles. If you think there's any question left about which team is the best in the AL East, you still aren't giving Baltimore enough credit. The Orioles are the best, top to bottom. That's clear when you consider they are in first place despite a rotation ERA above 4.00, higher than even those of the depleted Yankees and Rays. The O's have everything they need to go a long way in October except a clear No. 1 starter. They were the same way in 2012 and lost to the Yankees in five games in the ALDS. Price would make them a team no one would want to face.
2. If you were running that club, what would you consider giving up for him?
Castrovince: There's the rub, because it's clear Price would be making no guarantees to Seattle beyond 2015. So to get just eight months of control of Price, you'd probably have to give up Taijuan Walker or Nick Franklin -- if not both. I'd only do a deal involving both of those guys if it also brought back Ben Zobrist. I know the Wild Card is a crapshoot, but a Mariners team with Price and Zobrist has the goods to not only get to October but advance. If you can pull off that kind of megadeal, I say go for it. But if it's just a year and two months' worth of Price, I'd probably chicken out and keep my young pieces.
Justice: If you look at your club and believe it has a legitimate chance to win the World Series this season or next by adding Price, I'd pay almost any price in terms of prospects. I'd follow the Dave Dombrowski model of worrying strictly about this year, and if it means giving up a couple of kids, go for it. The Cardinals are best positioned to make that kind of deal because their farm system is the deepest. If Rays president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman wanted outfielder Randal Grichuk, left-hander Marco Gonzales and another player, I'd have to consider it. Whatever the price, Price is worth it if there's a decent chance he'll get you over the top.
Rogers: There isn't an obvious way to make a Price trade work for the Orioles, at least not if the Rays insist on getting young hitters in return. But Baltimore does have a lot of young pitching to deal, which could give Dan Duquette an opening to involve a third team that could send some hitting to Tampa Bay. For instance, Baltimore could send Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman to the Cubs for a package built around position players, and then pass those position players on to the Rays. The Orioles would have to pay heavily to convince Friedman to trade Price within the division, but with Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters heading toward free agency (Cruz after this season, Davis and Wieters after next season), this is the time for the Orioles to go for it.
3. Will the Rays deal Price by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and where do you think he actually will end up?
Castrovince: Price's value will not be higher this winter than it is now, so, as much as the Rays' recent play complicates things, I think they'll deal him by July 31. And I still think the Dodgers make the most sense. They are in "World Series or bust" mode, and having Price paired with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke would make them a World Series favorite despite their aging, injury-prone lineup and defensive issues. The question is whether the Dodgers can pull off such a deal without giving up two from the list of outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Julio Urias and third baseman Corey Seager.
Justice: At this moment, the Rays aren't going to trade him. If they're within shouting distance of .500 by the Deadline, there's no way they'll trade him. If they do, the Dodgers and Cardinals are co-favorites. The Dodgers could offer a package that includes Seager and Pederson and they also have the resources to sign Price to a long-term deal. The Cardinals have the players to make the deal happen as well, and so do the Mariners. However, if Friedman doesn't get what he believes is good value for one of baseball's premier pitchers, he's not going to trade Price regardless of where the Rays are in the standings.
Rogers: Hedging my bets, the answer is the Mariners ... or the Cubs. You can argue that Price would be a nice fit with either team -- the Mariners for now, the Cubs after signing him long term -- and there's a nice dynamic between those teams. The Cubs need young pitching and the Mariners have it to give. The Rays need young hitting and the Cubs have that. Theo Epstein is perfectly positioned to broker a Price trade, either for the Cubs or to move him on to the Mariners or another suitor.