The Tampa Bay Rays are off to a rough start, currently sitting in last place in the American League East with an 11-16 record. You know what that means. The inevitable David Price trade chatter is sure to become more frenzied the longer the Rays continue to sit below the .500 threshold. The perpetually spendthrift Rays are almost certainly going to prefer trading Price for a bevy of prospects instead of settling for a compensatory draft pick when he (inevitably) leaves via free agency following the 2015 season. That means the moment the Rays decide to wave the white flag on the 2014 season, Price is almost certainly gone, as the Rays will get more value from him if they trade him at the July trade deadline this year than if they wait until the end of the season.
So the question begs to be asked: do the Giants have a snowball’s chance in Hades of landing Price should the Rays openly make him available? The peerless Peter Gammons believes that the answer is yes, and he lists the Giants as one of three teams with the best chance of acquiring Price should a deadline deal be consummated. Gammons’ thinking basically boils down to the idea that the Giants could potentially go all in trying to win another championship in the next two years, and with a shaky pitching staff, Price just might be what the doctor ordered in the quest for ring number three.
Before we consider whether the Giants could or should go after Price, let’s look at Price’s outlook for the foreseeable future. Price, of course, is one of the American League’s top pitchers, having won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 and finishing second in the voting in 2010. He’s already won 74 games in his career and, at 28, he figures to have several good years left in his arm, having passed through the injury nexus that hits many young pitchers in the early stages of their careers. His 4.75 ERA so far this year looks ugly, but he’s posted a ridiculous 9.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio, so that high ERA is bound to plummet once he stops giving up so many long balls (1.5 per nine innings this year after averaging 0.7 from 2010 through 2013).
Of course, this all means that Price is going to be the recipient of a massive pay day when he hits free agency in the winter of 2015. Some team is bound to toss Clayton Kershaw money, or something close to it, at Price when he hits the free market. As of now, Price is guaranteed $15 million for 2014, and he stands to get a raise from that figure in arbitration for 2015. The Giants have three players tied to double figure annual contracts after 2015, so they’ll probably think twice about signing any player to the kind of blockbuster contract that Price will command. If they make a trade for Price, it’s most likely championship or bust.
Which then leads to the next question: do the Giants have the prospect oomph it’ll take to pry Price from the Rays in the first place? Short answer: maybe, or at least Gammons seems to think so. In most farm system rankings the Giants land comfortably in the bottom ten in the major leagues, but they do have some potentially attractive prospects. Andrew Susac, a catcher prospect blocked by Buster Posey, is very likely to be offered up. The Rays have traditionally liked to stockpile young arms, so the Giants could dangle some combination of Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Edwin Escobar, or Chris Stratton to lure Price. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have the prospect depth to hang with a team like the Pirates, Royals, or Dodgers, potential contenders who could likely blow them out of the water in a straight-up bidding war.
In any event, the Giants would likely have to gut their already thin farm system to make a move on Price. Would it be worth it? Well, Price would certainly look mighty good in a Giants uniform, and put him in the rotation in place of, say, Ryan Vogelsong, and suddenly they look like they could match the Dodgers in a twelve round fight for the NL West. The price would be steep, but with the increased odds of another championship calling like a siren, the Giants are certain to at least kick the ol’ tires should Price become trade bait come July.