Oct 4, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price (14) watches the action from the dugout during the eighth inning in game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Like the 28 other Major League Baseball teams that don’t currently have David Price on their roster, reports are circulating that the Angels have an interest in the Tampa Bay Rays left-handed ace. I mean, why wouldn’t they? He’s young (28), kind of cost-controlled (he’s not a free agent until after the 2015 season) and he’s averaged 4.4 fWAR over the last four seasons. Last season wasn’t exactly a “banner year” for Price, but maybe that pays into the Angels favor in trade talks.
The problem with trade ideas that involve Price are; what could the Angels possibly have to offer the Rays that would make them willing to move him west? Alden Gonzalez tackled the subject a week ago, but I am not so sure that it would take as large of a package as everyone thinks it will. Nor do I believe that it will have to be a package of strictly Major League Players to get the deal done.
I could list a slew of reasons why I believe what I believe, but it would eventually devolve into me not like pugs or me ranting over how the Rays fleeced the Angels with Scott Kazmir. I actually only have two reasons. They’re sound, don’t worry, I left my “nonsense hat” in the closet.
Yes, David Price is technically “cost-controlled.” But, David Price is by no means “cheap.”
Last season, Price earned $10.1125MM through arbitration (A record amount for a second time arbitration eligible pitcher). He still has two more rounds of arbitration before hitting free agency, and MLB Trade Rumors projects that Price will receive $13.1MM through arbitration this season, an increase of roughly 22%? I think. My math is not that hot-to-trot. But I digress.
Oct 5, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price (14) watches the RBI triple of Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew (7) during the fourth inning in game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Put it this way, the Angels aren’t trading for Michael Wacha (although, pretty pretty please, Cardinals). They aren’t trading for a pitcher who is in the bottom or the middle of the pack with regards to salaries. And it’s not like the Rays can “eat money” on the deal. Price’s cost is unknown at this point. And after he took a step back last season, that kind of scares me.
Which brings me to my next point…
Price took a step back last season
Although Price has been a fantastic pitcher since breaking into The Show, last season was not a step in the right direction. He dealt with an injury for the first time in his career, limiting him to 27 starts last season. His K-rate fell from 24.5% in 2012 to 20.4% in 2013. His walk-rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio both improved, but his ERA went from 2.56 to 3.33. Yes, yes, I know, his FIP was nearly identical from 2012 to 2012 (3.05 to 3.03), but you can’t completely factor out fielding, especially if a pitcher is not factoring them out himself through strikeouts.
Price still has plus-pitches, so it could be that last year was an anomaly, and next season he will return to the form that won him a Cy Young in 2012. But the Angels have their own pitcher who has seen his strikeout numbers decline, which in turn has made the fan base a little wary about his future. That pitcher, Jered Weaver.
Just to be clear, I would love for the Angels to trade for David Price. But only if the trade looks smart. If they package Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Howie Kendrick together with a mid-tier prospect, I won’t be happy with the trade. One or two of those names will have to be included along with (insert whatever crap you can find in the minors here).
If I am the Rays, I don’t trade Price because of how last season went for the lefty. If I am the Angels (or any team for that matter), I’m not selling the farm (or one-third of my lineup) for a pitcher who had mediocre season (by Ace pitcher standards) and is going to be more expensive with each of the next two seasons. It is a slippery slope with pitchers, and personally, I’d pass on the idea of trading for David Price. The cost in both money and players is simply going to be too high.