The David Price dilemma

As Major League Baseball nears its trading deadline, there are many players who have been mentioned about as potential candidates to be moved. Perhaps the most talked about of these is the starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, David Price.

At one point not too long ago, many of the experts were almost sure that Price was on the cusp of being moved. Since then, many things have changed. Now it may no longer a possibility that Price is going to be traded before the end of tomorrow. Instead, it looks increasingly more like he is going to stay with the Rays, at least for the remainder of 2014.

Price’s background

Since being the first overall pick of the 2007 MLB Draft, the 28 year old Price has lived up to his billing. It didn’t take long for him to become the ace of the Rays’ pitching staff. In 2010, just his second full season, he started the All-Star Game for the American League, and went on to finish second in Cy Young voting. That year, he pitched to a 2.72 ERA, while striking out 188 batters.

Two years later, in 2012, Price would have his best year yet. With a 2.56 ERA, 20 wins and 205 strikeouts, he had his best year to date and won his first Cy Young Award. After a solid 2013 that was limited somewhat by injury, Price returned to form in 2014. For about the first two months of this season, he did struggle — on May 24, his ERA was a surprising 4.42.

At that point, it was considered almost a certainty that he would be traded. His team was far behind in the AL East, and he was suffering through a down year. After that point, though, Price turned his season around, helping change both his team’s and possibly his own fate.

As of today, David Price has lowered his ERA to 3.08. Additionally, his 183 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings both lead the league. Combine that with his low walk total of just 21, and Price is having another dominant season. He is not eligible to be a free agent until the 2016 season, when he he will be 30. If Price were traded right know, he would command a return of several top-tier prospects. But chances are that will not happen, because just as Price has turned his season around, so have the Tampa Bay Rays.

The state of the Rays

On June 24, the Rays were 17 games below .500, at 31-48. Their hitters were slumping, and the pitching staff was not able to win games on its own. From that date forward, however, things have changed. Since then the Rays have gone 21-6. Today, they are 52-54. This hot streak has propelled them. Although they are 7 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, they trail the Toronto Blue Jays by just 4 1/2  games in the Wild Card chase.

With every game the Rays win, the lower the chances are that they will trade their star pitcher. They have crawled out a hole, and appear to be making a run to make the playoffs. They would not be able to do this, though, without Price. The Rays have a lot of work to do if they want to make the the playoffs, or even contend, but they do have quite a bit of momentum behind them.

So what should be done with David Price? As previously mentioned, he will not be a free agent until after next season. Once he does, if he can continue his dominance, he will likely demand a huge contract. This will probably be somewhere in the area of 6-8 years with an annual value of more than $20 million.

The Rays have shown in the past that they do not usually like giving out long term deals like this. Instead, with players like James Shields, Carl Crawford, and B.J. Upton, they either let them walk in free agency or trade them for top prospects.

In Price’s case, it looks like they will do the latter. He may stay in a Rays’ uniform for the rest of 2014, but beyond that, his future is uncertain. The scenario that makes the most sense for the Rays is to trade him in the offseason.

If Price can continue his dominance through the end of the year, he will probably end up being one of the Cy Young candidates, and perhaps the winner. As a dominant pitcher who is still in his prime, he will command a huge return. That way, the Rays can keep him for a possible pennant run in 2014, but still get a lot for him when the season is over.

Joe Setyon, sports editor of The Collegian at Grove City College, contributes to Three for Ten Sports as a baseball writer.


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