phpKVujZfA short while ago, we took Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest to task for assuming that the Rays were only going to start David Price in the minors this season because the team is cheap. Jay Sorgen later responded to our flurry of jabs.

But rather than get into a war of baseball smarts versus New York bias, we will let Jayson Stark exaplain why Price will begin the season in the minors and why this means trouble for the Red Sox and Yankees.

On the depth of major league-ready starting pitching:

The Rays haven’t quite yet said that their favorite 23-year-old left-handed phenom is about to be handed a plane ticket to Durham, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. Not officially, anyway…But every indication is that that’s what’s about to happen, probably any day now. And if that isn’t a sign that the Rays obviously have way too much talent and way too much pitching, I don’t know what is.

On the player’s reactions to possibly not having Price [Ed note: several players expressed their disapproval publicly last year when Evan Longoria was demoted at the end of Spring Training]:

You wonder how many teams could sell their fans — and, maybe more important, their players — on the idea that sending out arguably the most dominating pitcher on their roster is actually a sensible baseball move, not some kind of sinister ploy to save money…But it tells you how far this franchise has come in the last year that you hear almost no second-guessing on this front in this team’s camp. From anybody.

“These guys are extremely smart in our front office,” first baseman Carlos Pena said. “So I respect that decision. I know there’s some very good reason behind it that will serve this team and, more importantly, serve David Price’s future.”

On why finances has little to do with demotion:

Oh, the Rays have their reasons, all right. Very, very intelligently thought-out reasons. And we should point out, at the top, that they have no reason — at least in the short term — to avoid starting Price’s arbitration clock. He’s already signed through 2012.

On what the Rays stand to benefit:

So if this is about baseball, it’s tough to argue with the concept of conserving Price’s innings load until they really need him. And when they say they want him to finish off his development into the top-of-the-rotation behemoth everyone expects him to be, well, how can you blame them?

Stark provides quotes from Jim Hickey on why dominating October as a relief pitcher is different than starting against the Yankees five times over six months:

“Obviously,” Hickey said, “he’s very talented. And he brought all the weapons he needed to the table. But a lot of that was also a little bit of unfamiliarity the hitters had with him. He’s got a little bit of funk in that delivery, which is helpful. And guys just not knowing what to expect…But let’s just say he’s a starting pitcher [this year], and he faces New York three, four or five times, or Baltimore three, four or five times, or anybody in our division. Obviously, you have to continue to get better. You have to adjust. And that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about. We’re not talking about any great deficiencies here.”

On limiting Price’s workload [Ed. note: Joe Maddon never skips pitchers in the rotation, always preferring to give his guys more rest. So the idea of having Price skip starts occasionally as the fifth starter would never happen]:

He worked 129 1/3 of those innings last season, counting the postseason. And the Rays want to limit their young pitchers to only about a 20 percent increase from year to year. So if we’re calculating correctly, that means they would like him to top out at about 155 innings or so this year…”So when would you rather have those innings?” Maddon asked. “In April or in October?”

On the Rays having other options:

So if Price doesn’t start the year in this rotation, it’s not as if they’ll be forced to throw some 47-year-old slopballer from the Mexican League out there…I bet there are a number of teams,” Hickey said, “that wouldn’t mind having these three guys (Price, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann) compete for their third spot in the rotation.”

We are not saying Jayson Stark is the absolute authority, but he is smarter than us.

In the end, what it comes down to is exactly what Carlos Pena referenced. The Tampa Bay Rays front office has been right much more often than they have been wrong. And with that, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Believe it or not, Price headed to minors [ESPN]

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6 Comments

  1. themarksmith says:

    Not saying I don't agree, but what does him being signed through 2012 have to do with anything? It would be his first year of arbitration, and he'd still be under team control and relatively cheap. He reaches six seasons when he reaches six seasons, but I guess I see where he's going.

    Still, I prefer the argument that Price's clock has already started, so putting him down in Durham for a month would (time wise) essentially be the same as starting him from Opening Day this season and not having him called up last season. If they were so cost-conscious, they would have been just happy to make the playoffs, which they were guaranteed to anyway when he was brought up. Clearly, they were going for the win instead of the wallet.

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  2. Jay Sorgen says:

    Hello all, this is Jay Sorgen from New York Baseball Digest. Thanks to all of you (especially Cork) for opening up the lines of communication between our two web sites. I currently live in Florida, and am very excited about the team the Rays have put together for 2009.

    I have taken significant criticism over the past few weeks regarding my position on why the Rays will (probably) send David Price to the minors. The fact that Jayson Stark wrote an article detailing this very issue lends credence to the fact that this is something worth openly discussing, and I did NOT pull the opinion I had simply out of thin air without doing any research on it.

    I sincerely believe that the Rays management group has done some exemplary work since they took over in 2005. One excellent move after another. The fact that this team is a bonafide contender (hopefully for years to come) is proof positive of that.

    I simply stated that Price is much better than Hammel or Niemann even at this fetal stage of his career, and that things like "arbitration clock" would not even be considered in New York or Boston as to whether or not to send Price down to the minors. Hammel is 4-13 with a 6.41 ERA in 28 career starts in the majors. Niemann is as unproven in the majors as Price, is almost the same age as Price, and pitched 133 innings last year (very similar to Price). Niemann has some upside, but nowhere near the ceiling of David Price.

    Again, I stand by my well researched position. Hey, for the sake of the Rays' fans, I hope I'm dead wrong about this. Price's stuff reminds me of Dwight Gooden when he first came up, only Price seems much more mature.

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  3. Spiff says:

    This is the best piece so far this spring. Best explanation I have seen on why Price waiting makes sense...

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  4. Jay Sorgen says:

    As a follow up, since we are bringing writers' opinions from other outlets into play here. Here is what Rotoworld.com reported on their web site last night regarding the actual demotion of Price. It states my opinion perfectly...............

    Rays optioned LHP David Price, OF Justin Ruggiano, SS Reid Brignac, 2B Elliot Johnson and C John Jaso to Triple-A Durham.

    The Rays will keep saying it's a baseball move, but Price is going down so that they can save money in three years. It seems like a ridiculous choice when the AL East seems likely to be so closely contended again. They can't even make the case that he was outpitched this spring, what with Jason Hammel sporting a 4.95 ERA and Jeff Niemann at 7.71. Price, who was held back intiially, allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings. This will serve to keep his innings count down, and Price may be a better pitcher in September as a result. However, if the Rays go 3-7 in the fifth starter's starts before Price comes up in late May or June, it might mean the difference between a playoff spot and spending October at home. Mar. 25 - 6:24 pm et

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  5. Dirtbag Fan says:

    Wow- some people are thick.

    This move is so far from financially-minded that it should be abundantly clear to everyone, but for some reason certain people just can't wrap their minds around the concept that the Rays' brain-trust has a firm grasp on what they're doing.

    They are truly interested in helping young pitchers mature at the proper rate rather than ruin their arms early in their careers. The reality of the 5th starter position as the season opens is this: its unimportant.

    The only financially-driven aspect of this decision actually lies with the other #5 candidates (Niemann, Hammel). If one or both of these pitchers can show that they are at least servicable then they can catch some trade-value and bring more money into the organization- at which point King David can ride in on his white horse and save the proverbial day as the new #5 and everybody wins.

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  6. Flava Dave says:

    Hey, what do you know? A New Yorker living in Florida...imagine that.

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