Do the Rays have to trade David Price? Dave Cameron at ESPN.com thinks so as he suggests the Rays trade Price and Tim Beckham to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton and last year’s first-round pick (#3 overall) Trevor Bauer

As long as the Rays hold their payroll at a similar level, trading Price is an inevitability, as his increasing arbitration awards are going to price him out of their budget within the two years.

Let’s ignore for a second that Upton is owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons, which is probably not much less than what Price, ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHERS IN BASEBALL will make in arbitration. Rather, let’s focus on the part where the Rays have to trade Price.

It’s the standard Rays Ad Lib that the national media is always so fond of: “The Tampa Bay Rays must trade __________ because they can no longer afford him.” Seems fair. As players get older they get more expensive and the Rays are working with one of baseball’s smaller payrolls.

But when you read these, ask the national media this question: When was the last time Andrew Friedman traded a good player just because they could no longer afford him? The simple answer is never.

The Rays let expensive players walk as free agents (e.g. Carl Crawford). They trade players that are no longer worth their salary (e.g. Scott Kazmir). They trade players if they they have younger players that are just as good or even better (e.g. Edwin Jackson). And they’ll trade a good player if another team makes an offer the Rays can’t refuse (e.g. Matt Garza)*.

What they have never done is trade a player that is still productive just because he is expensive.

Yes, there is some cost uncertainty with Price who still has three years of arbitration left and unlikely to sign a long-term deal. But the Rays are pretty good with numbers. And if you are paying attention you can predict a player’s arbitration salary fairly accurately, which means the Rays already have an idea of how to budget within those numbers.

This doesn’t mean the Rays won’t trade Price (or James Shields) as he gets more expensive. But unless a team is willing to pay the Rays’ (very steep) asking price, they will be more than happy to keep Price in the family. And they will figure out how to save money elsewhere.

* Keep in mind, Matt Garza only made $6 million in the season after he was traded. The Rays could have easily kept him.

 
 

15 Comments

  1. don says:

    THink your hung up on the national media using the word “trade” when the Rays have consistantly let players “leave” because they didn’t Want to pay them…
    “Trading” no, but losing players because of Money…yes.
    I guess the national media could have said “cheap” which would have been a better story for national fans…

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Yes, it is more likely that Shields will “leave” as a free agent. That’s the point. The Rays budget for these players to get more expensive during their arbitration years. They then assume those players will leave as they get older and even more expensive.

  2. Mark says:

    I do understand the argument, and I also hate when the national media (and fans from other teams) feel they are entitled to elite Rays talent just because we are a small market team and can’t afford players.

    However, I feel like we’re moving into uncharted territory. We haven’t reached a point in the Friedman era where the core of the club is getting expensive all at once. Longoria and Zobrist are about to hit their option years where they’re going to get more expensive, and I’m guessing they’re not going to trade either of those contracts. The Rays do have a surplus of pitching, and even though Price’s escalating arbitration years will probably not come close to his true value as an elite LH SP, it still does handicap the rest of the payroll. I still believe they’d rather trade Shields or Hellickson (being a Boras client who’s now won ROY and a Gold Glove) over Price unless the offer includes half the farm system (and this Justin Upton/Bauer trade doesnt).

    But I agree with the notion that the Rays wont force a trade just because of payroll constrictions; they’re going to look at value. That being said, I think David Price isn’t going to last until free agency, even when his value exceeds his contract. I dont see any way the Rays can keep him without significantly harming the rest of the payroll, especially as a super-two player whose last arb year might be in the 15-20 MM range.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      I agree with most of that, but I’d disagree that this is uncharted. Even with Shields and Price, the Rays will have just two players that will make $7+ million in 2013. And the payroll is in the neighborhood of of $61.4 million. Of course they need to add at least one (expensive?) bat to either DH or play first base.

      Now compare that to 2010. That season the Rays have Pena ($10.1 million), Crawford ($10.0M), Burrell ($9.0M), Soriano ($7.3M) and a payroll of $71.5 million. Obviously they’d prefer to keep the payroll below that, but they have shown they can keep a number of expensive players if needed.

      • Mark says:

        I guess this really depends on how much Sternberg is willing to spend. Whenever he gives interviews on the payroll, he’s always states that he’s reluctant to be spending this much money. In 2010 he always justified the higher payroll since the team was “the strongest yet”, and while that is certainly the case this year and probably next, paying 70+ MM back to back years is something Stu may not want to do. I’m not sure how involved Stu is in front office decisions, but if the payroll get’s too high, I can see him pressure AF on a trade.

        • Mike says:

          I am fairly sure the Rays have a set budget to work with, and don’t go over it without Mr. Sternberg’s permission. I can’t imagine the payroll (or any other expense) would ever get so high that Mr. Sternberg is pressuring Friedman to trade someone. These guys are damn good with money; its not like we are talking about Congress here.

      • Ken says:

        Since Shields is high on the LAD list, how about receiving 2 of the following 3 in trade: Carl Crawford, with LA covering the delta between his contract salary and the Rays payment of $6M per year; Hanley Ramirez with the similar $ deal with the Rays covering $6M per year, or Adrian Gonzales, with Rays covering $6M per year?

        • Ken says:

          Actually, if we don’t offer arbitration to Roberts we save another $3M and thus free up $18M ( Scott $5M + Roberts $3M + Shields $10M) by trading Shields. We then could afford all three Dodgers. We could then move Ben over to 2B which would solve all of our positions except catcher because I would use the DH to rotate players.

        • Drew says:

          You are either suggesting:
          A. The Dodgers cover all but $6mil of the contracts for the 2013 season
          B. The Dodgers cover all but $6mil of the contracts for every season of the contracts.

          Considering the Gonzalez contract runs thru 2018 and the Crawford contract runs thru 2017, each at over $20mil, there is less than a 0% chance of either of them being on the Rays. Hanley would only require the Dodgers to pay $10mil this season. You’re also forgetting that there is also about a 1% chance that any of these three get traded as the Dodgers have no in-house solutions that are better, or even close to, their talent level. I honestly don’t even know why I addressed this.

  3. Brianknowsbest says:

    I like this trade actually. Justin upton is a mvp caliber player. Sheilds, moore, neiman, hellickson, cobb is stil a top notch rotation. with bauer in the ranks. I am a big fan.

    Now I agree with you they dont “have” to trade price. But if they can get that kind of get, they may want to. How else are you going to get a player who is a mvp claiber player, RIGHT NOW.

  4. Dave L says:

    I guess I jumped the gun yesterday posting how laughable this article was.

    The main point about the trading Price or Sheilds is that:

    1) Sheilds being a RHP is easier for the 2013 Rays to replace with young live RH arms (Archer Cobb and the hopeful return of a healthy Niemann)

    2) We control Price for a few more years so the trade him or let him walk is postponed, whereas the Shields trade/walk for free deadline is less than a year away and his value is high now coming off a great season.

    3) Price is irreplaceable. MM is already in the rotation and may one day be an Alpha lefty but the pipeline for a LHP to replace Price in the Rays org. is limited to Alex Torres.

    One of the reasons we were so great last year was the flexibility of having 2 lefties, 1 elite and 1 a plus to go with 3 plus righties.

    How many teams had that luxury? Mot many.

    Sheilds can be replaced with a Cobb/Archer/Niemann combo and maybe not skip a beat.

    The Rays shouldnt and WONT trade Price at ANY price until all our options are gone. then maybe Torres will be ready and MM will have developed into the near Price role by then.

    As I said yesterday these NE types dream this crap up and have no clue to how the Rays operate only that they know we are ‘cheap’ they are not familiar with the method to the Rays cheapness.

    • Tom says:

      Dave Cameron is not from the Northeast.

      • Dave L says:

        I could care less where he’s from. Fact is he thinks like those people and views us a farm team obviously.

        So we have established I dont know where some obscure sportswriter is from and you dont know where the Upton family is from heheh

  5. Tom says:

    I know I am dreaming here but ….. If BJ took a hometown discount due to his brother being on the team, they could then move Joyce to 1B and have a pretty strong top 6 of the batting order.

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