Baseball Price Check

Texas Rangers could be in pursuit of Rays ace David Price, but at what cost?

Rangers could be in pursuit of Rays ace, but at what cost?

David Price of Tampa Bay Rays
There is a great amount of chatter around Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price. Wikimedia Commons

Major League Baseball’s winter meetings are traditionally where baseball teams sign and trade talent on a large scale. But what do you do if you’re the Texas Rangers and you’ve already pulled off one of the biggest deals of the offseason in trading for Prince Fielder?

Perhaps pull the trigger on a trade that would bring one of the biggest pitching names in the American League to Arlington?

The Rangers have made it clear they need at least one more bat for their lineup. But the talk of this winter meeting, given the number of high-caliber bats that have already been signed in advance of these meetings, could be the pursuit of David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.

 The team that acquires David Price, should the Rays choose to deal him, would be getting a staff ace in his prime with two years of arbitration control before he goes for big money at age 30.

There is a great amount of chatter around Price, the former Cy Young winner who can’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season. The Rays know they won’t be able to keep him once he hits free agency, so they could be looking to maximize their return on dealing Price now, rather than waiting to see him go. Plus, Price is eligible for arbitration and could break the Rays’ piggy bank as soon as this spring.

The Rays did something similar last offseason with James Shields, trading him to Kansas City for some solid talent before Shields’ contract got out of control. But Shields did not have Price’s accomplishments.

At 28 years old Price is 71-39, owns the 2012 Cy Young award and has three All-Star Game appearances. The team that acquires Price, should the Rays choose to deal him, would be getting a true staff ace in his prime with two years of arbitration control before he goes for the big money at age 30.

That’s why Price is enticing to any franchise. But money is actually a secondary concern in the short term. A team needs the talent to pry Price away, and the price will be steep.

That’s why the Rangers have been connected to this potential deal. They have oodles of the young, talented and cheap players the Rays are interested in acquiring. But a deal like this is going to take Major League-ready talent too. And the Rangers, frankly, already have starting pitching.

But the Rangers sustained a ton of injuries in starting pitching last year. They nearly survived it too. But in the six-month grind of a season, plus a month for the postseason, you can never have enough pitching.

So what should the Rangers give up to get Price?

Now that Fielder is in town, Mitch Moreland is expendable. The Rays don’t have a first baseman under contract. Moreland is under club control for three more years. That’s speaking the Rays’ language.

The Rays need a talented, inexpensive pitcher. Martin Perez would fit the bill. The Rangers just signed him to a four-year, $12.5 million contract. Perez has the ability to become a No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher in a rotation. The Rays aren’t expecting an ace in return. But they want talent they can control.

Using the Shields trade as a guide, the Rays are going to want at least two prospects, one of which would likely be a pitcher. That might require the Rangers parting with Wilmer Font, their top pitching prospect, and a bat like outfielder Michael Choice.

But in return the Rangers would get Price to slip into a rotation with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, with a healthy Colby Lewis likely bringing up the rear.

It’s the kind of deal you make when you know your window for a championship is no longer wide open.

But if the Rangers can pair acquiring one of the game’s top five pitchers with one of the game’s top five power hitters in the same offseason, they may well prop that window open just a little bit longer.