If Saturday night winds up being David Price’s final appearance in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, it wasn’t exactly the way he wanted to go out — getting tagged for seven runs in seven innings in a pivotal 7-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, then going on an ill-conceived Twitter rant afterward that made him come off as petty and thin-skinned.
Was this the end of Price’s time in Tampa? First of all, by no means are the Rays dead yet. But they are in deep trouble, down two games to none and needing to win Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday just to get the ball back in Price’s hand for Game 5.
Price, meantime, remains under the Rays’ control through 2015, and they are not forced to trade him. But there is widespread belief the Rays will solicit offers for the 28-year-old lefty this winter, with two years left before reaching free agency, when his value is at its peak — much in the way they traded Matt Garza and James Shields at the same points in their careers. Price, who made $10 million this season, could make $14 million or more via arbitration in 2014, and the Rays, whose small revenues make it impossible to retain most of their stars, have perfected the art of turning over their roster in this way, trading away stars in their prime and developing new ones to take their place. Price may be different, in that the Rays see him, along with third baseman Evan Longoria, as the face of their franchise — but by keeping him through 2015 they risk seeing him walk away via free agency.
Should the Rays choose to trade him, Price would undoubtedly be the most appealing pitcher on the offseason talent market. With teams increasingly locking up their young pitchers in long-term deals, few of them ever to make it to free agency — this year’s free agent class, highlighted by Garza, Tim Lincecum and Hiroki Kuroda, is emblematic. If you can’t develop your own young pitching studs, increasingly your only other option is to trade for one. And there will be no shortage of teams interested in Price — including, one suspects, the Dodgers, Rangers and Cubs. It would take a huge haul to pry Price away from the Rays — think Jurickson Profar from the Rangers — but Price may be worth it.
Price is the reigning American League Cy Young winner and a three-time all-star, with a career record of 71-39 with a 3.19 ERA. The only knock on him — and it is a small knock, given the small sample size — is his postseason record, which now sits at 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA. Simply put, Price is one of the best pitchers of his generation, an unquestioned ace in the prime of his career, and someone will be thrilled to have him in 2014 — even if that someone turns out to be the Rays.
Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers, 1 p.m., MLB Network
A’s: Parker (12-8, 3.97) | Tigers: Sanchez (14-8, 2.57)
St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates, 3 p.m., TBS
Cardinals: Wacha (4-1, 2.78) | Pirates: Morton (7-4, 3.26)
Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, 6 p.m., TBS
Red Sox: Buchholz (12-1, 1.74) | Rays: Cobb (11-3, 2.76)
Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers, 9:30 p.m., TBS
Braves: Garcia (4-7, 4.37) | Dodgers: Nolasco (13-11, 3.70)