To set or react to the market? That’s one important question that the Tampa Bay Rays will have to ask themselves over the next few months.
While Andrew Friedman and co. are undoubtedly doing the right thing and collecting what information they can about David Price, it doesn’t take much of an expert to figure out that unless the information is somehow going to give the team a hefty nine-figure sum of money over the better part of the next decade, the lefty ace is going to be departing for greener pastures — whether its of his own volition or the team’s.
And as the team was recently ranked dead last in team value by Bloomberg at a total of $530 million … well, you get the idea.
So too do the Rays, and probably the rest of MLB by this point. In situations like these, especially when the Rays are arguably the lone team in the bigs with a legitimate front-line ace in his prime to offer on either the free agent or trade market (it’s unclear whether the Detroit Tigers will actually trade Max Scherzer), making the first move can certainly yield its benefits.
Sure, they could watch as guys like Ricky Nolasco get well overpaid and see if teams get desperate, but with starting pitchers being what they’re currently worth and the fact that the teams who can realistically sign Price to a long-term deal are limited, why not leverage the rarity of their asset and make the first move?
If Tampa Bay does in fact decide to do so, they really don’t have to look too much further than the Texas Rangers do find an ideal dance partner.
Not only do they share the same initials, but they also share to same need to leverage one of their prized assets before its too late. For Jon Daniels and co., that asset is in the middle infield; whether it’s Ian Kinsler or Jurickson Profar, the team’s future is not set up with both of them in the mix and something has to give.
Meanwhile, starting pitching also happens to be one of their needs, as they may be taking the “if you can’t out-hit ‘em, out-pitch ‘em” approach going forward since they’re facing a bit of a power exodus anyway. Seems like they should at least have a sit-down with the Rays, no?
For Tampa Bay, a potential deal will of course begin and end with Profar, the former all-world prospect whose development was arguably bungled in 2013 but who remains a a tantalizing MLB-ready prospect with an All-Star ceiling. As far as his fit goes, I don’t think he’ll find a much better one than the Rays (maybe the St. Louis Cardinals?).
Joe Maddon and co. are a group that prides themselves on developing an environment in which young players thrive. With the Rays, Profar would immediately get a full-time opportunity to do just that second, moving Ben Zobrist back to the super-utility role where he can literally contribute to the team anywhere. Corner outfield? DH? Even first base? He’s done it all. And if the team decides against picking up Yunel Escobar‘s 2015 option in case he has a poor season? Profar would fit just fine there, and Zobrist can play second base.
Top shortstop/middle infield prospects aren’t overly abundant (if you’re not the Rangers, anyway) and as far as a centerpiece goes, the Rays could do much worse than Profar.
That won’t be all, of course. Considering the haul that they landed for James Shields, the Rays will conceivably be able to get much more from the Rangers for a better pitcher in Price. With Texas already having Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers is definitely a possibility, in addition to a couple of other top prospects.
In fact, even though it would put the Rangers in even more of an offensive conundrum, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that they could also get Mitch Moreland on this deal after a down season. Would three MLB-ready assets plus a couple of prospects be a haul they can legitimately get for Price (plus whatever requisite minor pieces they’d send back)?
The Rays could sit around for the market to develop to find out, but being proactive about it now might actually turn it from unlikely speculation to realistic possibility.