David Price is preparing himself for the inevitable. He's getting traded.
The low-budget Tampa Bay Rays can't afford to keep the star pitcher once he becomes a free agent. So, despite Price's love affair with the team that drafted him number one overall in 2005, he has his bags packed and set by the door. Price has watched too many friends and teammates come and go for financial reasons to expect the organization to suddenly make an exception for him.
This is the Rays' way. And they happen to operate within their circumstances better than any franchise in baseball.
With two years and $23 million remaining on his contract, now is the time to move the 28-year-old former Cy Young Award winner. Now is when his trade value is highest. The organization did the same thing last year with James Shields and the previous year with Matt Garza.
So, where is Price headed?
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the three teams likely to push hardest for Price are the Rangers, Cubs, and... wait for it...the Diamondbacks.
Really? The Diamondbacks?
Of course, damn near every team in baseball is likely to kick the tires on a Price trade, just to see what the Rays are looking for in return.
Well, allow me to end the suspense. I'll tell you what they'll be looking for in return.
December 10, 2012, Tampa sent Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for four prospects, including the Royals' top prospect, Wil Myers, who was ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball.
And Price is a better pitcher than Shields. He's also three years younger.
So, there it is. That's where the negotiation starts. We'll give you David Price for one of the game's top ten prospects AND...
That means if you're the Diamondbacks, you know that landing one of the top ten starting pitchers in baseball begins with sending Archie Bradley to Florida. Now, what else are you prepared to kick in?
The Kansas City Royals were harshly criticized for moving Myers. But the Royals needed an ace. After a quarter-century of losing baseball they were tired of waiting for tomorrow, and the organization had carved out a reputation for overvaluing its prospects. James Shields was going to give KC a sure thing, a pitcher to help them win now.
The result? A 14-game improvement in the standings and the team's best record since 1989.
It was the right trade for the Royals.
However, as a general rule, it was the wrong trade for a small-to-medium market club to make. Teams like the Royals and Diamondbacks should be following Tampa Bay's blueprint for success not feeding into it.
A Bradley package for Price would be the wrong trade for the Diamondbacks. You don't deal a potential ace you can control for seven years for a proven ace you know is leaving in two or less.
Of course, the Diamondbacks share a division with a couple big-market clubs. And the team surely fears seeing Price go to the Dodgers or Giants. Money for Price is not an issue for L.A., and the Giants have cleared the monster salaries of Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito from their books. So, both teams have the cash to sign Price long-term, but do they have the prospects? Or should I say prospect?
I'm speculating that the primary reason the Rangers, Cubs and Diamondbacks are listed as Sherman's top three candidates is because all three teams have a top-ten prospect. Jurickson Profar (#1 in 2013) in Texas, Javier Baez (#9) in Chicago, and Bradley (#6) in Arizona.
Other teams with top-ten prospects include: Minnesota with two, Cleveland, Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, Houston and St. Louis.
Now, of those ten teams, who has a realistic chance of winning in 2014?
Texas, Cleveland, Boston, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
And of those five teams, which have the money to sign Price long term?
OK, let's try this again. Who then are the three teams with the best chance of trading for David Price this offseason?
Texas, Boston and St. Louis.
The rich get richer.
But at least the Diamondbacks hold onto Archie Bradley.