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What is the right price for David Price?

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The St. Louis Cardinals now find themselves involved in various trade rumors involving Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price. Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Cardinals are scouting the Rays, who are expected to be sellers at the trade deadline. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports mentioned the Cardinals as one of the teams who have the talent to acquire Price. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Rays are prepared to move Price “right now” in the right deal.

The timing fits, as the Cardinals recently lost Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha at least temporarily to shoulder injuries. Shelby Miller left yesterday’s game early, and even if they pitch well in the future Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly cannot be expected to go deep into games.

The Cardinals still have plenty of talent in the minors to trade for a star like Price, and the payroll flexibility in future years to absorb Price’s salary.

The big questions are:

1. What would it take to acquire Price?

and

2. What would the Cardinals be willing to pay?

Past Precedent

Rosenthal reports that the Rays would be looking to better the deal they made with the Royals when the Rays traded James Shields and Wade Davis for Wil Myers, Jake Ordorizzi, Miek Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard.

At the time he was traded Myers was widely regarded as top ten prospect when he was traded to the Rays. Ordorizzi was seen as a top 100 prospect who was ready to join a Major League rotation at the time of the trade. Montgomery and Leonard were more low end prospects with some upside.

Application to the Present

So what would this deal look like for the Cardinals? The Rays traded both Shields and Davis in a package deal to the Royals, but Price is a better pitcher than both. Price is under price control for another two years, but he is already in his arbitration years which means he is not exactly getting minimum wage. In fact, Price will earn $14 million in 2014 and can be expected to earn even more in future years. That is hardly low priced for a pitcher who still has not topped 5.0 WAR in one season (in comparison Wainwright had a 6.0 WAR in 2013 and has a contract with an average annual value of $19.5 million)

If the Rays truly are looking to top their Shields deal their demands seem like a bit of a stretch, but let’s consider all scenarios.

Rays Get All They Want

Suppose the Cardinals are desperate and the Rays are greedy and these two forces collide to get the Rays all they want. Such a deal would probably look something like:

  • David Price and another piece to make the Cardinals feel better (perhaps Ben Zobrist)

for

  • Crown Jewel: Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams
  • Major League Ready Mid-Rotation Starting Pitcher: Marco Gonzales or Joe Kelly
  • Low End Prospects: James Ramsey and Nick Petree

This would top the Myers deal by a slight margin as Taveras is considered an even better prospect than Myers. Gonzales, like Ordorizzi, is considered a Major League ready pitcher already. James Ramsey and Nick Petree are not high end prospects but they have produced well in the minors and certainly have some value.

Cardinals Get Price on the Cheap

What would a deal look like if the Rays are desperate to unload Price and fall in love with some of the Cardinals lower end prospects? A Cardinals fans' dream trade would look something like this:

  • David Price

for

  • Decent Hitting Prospect: One from Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, or James Ramsey
  • High Ceiling, non-Major League ready pitching prospect: Alexander Reyes or Rob Kaminsky
  • Two Low End Prospects: Tim Cooney, Mike O’ Neil, Tim Cooney, Zack Petrick, Nick Petree, Greg Garcia, Charlie Tilson

Piscotty is considered a top 100 prospect by many publications and the consensus is that he will hit eventually in the big leagues. The problem for Piscotty is that he has nowhere to go in the Cardinals crowded outfield. Kaminsky and Reyes are high ceiling pitchers in single-A who also rans in the top 100 according to many publications. Cooney is low ceiling pitcher who has succeeded in the minors so far with good command a four-pitch arsenal.

It is not a horrible deal for the Rays, but if they Rays truly are looking for a Shields like deal this is not it, and if they can find that deal elsewhere they likely would do so.

The Middle Ground

  • David Price and something (again maybe Zobrist)

for

  • One Major League Ready Pitcher: Carlos Martinez or Joe Kelly (probably Martinez) and;
  • One High End Hitting Prospect not named Oscar: Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk and;
  • One High Ceiling Pitching Prospect: Alex Reyes or Rob Kaminsky and;
  • One Mid-Tier Prospect: James Ramsey or Carson Kelly

This deal does not feature the diamond prospect on the level of Myers, but it is deeper in talent than the Shields trade. Here the Rays immediately pocket a cost-controlled start in Kelly or Martinez, and a Major League ready hitter in Piscotty or Grichuk. The Rays also get a top 100 pitching prospect in Reyes or Kaminsky and to top it off they get a decent prospect in Ramsey or Kelly, either of whom could pan out to be a Major League starter.

This is a deal that would leave both sides unfulfilled. The Rays would not get the diamond they wanted (Taveras) and the Cardinals would away more depth than they wanted.

The Wild Card

The potential wild card in all of this is Allen Craig, who has had a disappointing 2014 to say the least. Still, Craig past production, and hopes of a resurgence, may interest the Rays who could digest his owner friendly 5-year, $31 million contract with a team option for 2018. Assuming Craig has value to the Rays, and he might, he could be part of a trade for Price, though the Cardinals certainly would have to add some significant other pieces to the deal (think something like Carlos Martinez and James Ramsey).

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