It goes without saying. Stud pitching prospect David Price is off limits.
The Tampa Bay Rays have made it perfectly clear that Price, who is dominating in his first professional season, will not be available in any deals at the trade deadline. Andrew Friedman and his staff are great at finding value, buying low and selling high. Friedman has a tremendous vision of locking up the team's talented young players for the long term, as they did with players such as Evan Longoria and James Shields.
The only way a small-market team can sustain its success in a division with the game's financial superpowers is to build from within, attempting to hold onto as many productive young players as possible. With Price, the Rays have one of the best pitching prospects in the minors well into the next decade, which will perhaps provide the team with the premier pitching staff in the game. If Price lives up to expectations, he will anchor a staff alongside incumbent ace Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Shields for a number of years.
David Price (AP)
Dealing away a pitcher like Price would be inconsistent with the Rays' excellent vision for building a sustainable franchise.
The Rays' offense has been a disappointment--Carl Crawford should platoon against lefties and has is among the least productive offensive left fielders in the game this season--and could certainly use another bat, but only at the right price. Make no bones about it, the Rays can compete for a title in 2008, currently sitting as the favorite to hold off the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card race.
So a few minor tweaks here or there at the before July 31 could really help this team.
Tampa Bay has relied on excellent starting pitching and defense, and has a nucleus right now to make a run at this thing. While there are some concerns with the inexperienced starting rotation, the health status of closer Troy Percival and the Rays' struggling offense, this is an organization with the ability to compete not only now, but for the next several years as well.
Which makes it so important not to get myopic in hoping for a major blockbuster player swap at the trade deadline. As Jayson Stark points out in this excellent column, trades at the deadline--even when the player makes a tremendous impact, see Teixeira, Mark in '07--hardly ever help push a team to a World Series title. Trade talk makes for great debate, but on most instances does not live up to the hype.
Matt Holliday, for instance, is undoubtedly a premier bat in this league. Holliday, the runner-up in the NL MVP voting last season, is this year's version of Mark Teixeira, though. He will be under team control through 2009, so he is not a three-month rental player. Still, he is a Scott Boras client who is going to demand big dollars when he hits the free agent market.
Fans will get a preview this winter with Teixeira, who had a monster second half for the Braves after he was acquired at the deadline in the biggest deal of the season last summer. The Braves, however, were 2.5 games out in the National League East when they acquired the switch-hitting slugger. They then finished six games back, despite a monster performance from their new acquisition. Granted, comparing the '07 Braves and this year's Rays team is misguided; the cliche apples to oranges saying applies, in fact.
Holliday, whose home-road splits tell us a lot, will add around three wins for the team that acquires him, according to Baseball Prospectus. He would undoubtedly be a great addition in the Rays' lineup, which has struggled to hit for any power, and would bring in two compensation picks when he bolted for free agency in '09. However, he is definitely not worth the cost of a prospect like Price, who could make a huge impact down the stretch in his own right when he gets called up in September.
Ditto for Brian Fuentes, who lost his closer's role last year to Manny Corpas. There is a perception among fans that he will make a huge difference, but will he, really? Also, the Rockies are reportedly asking for Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis to be included in a package. That asking price, of course, does not pass the laugh test.
A 25-man roster can always improve, but do not expect any major changes for the Rays, who are currently in first place in the American League East.
This story truly is a non-issue, because Price is not going anywhere, obviously. But after hearing several callers talk about giving up Price in a Holliday-type deal today on my appearance on Happy Hour With JP, I was promoted to respond in the latest episode of the RaysDigest podcast below.