The Tampa Bay Rays’ start to the season was a complete and utter failure in just about every way possible. Just a few weeks ago the Rays were the worst team in Major League Baseball, and it appeared as though they would almost certainly be trading away their ace starting pitcher, David Price, in exchange for prospects to help them in the long run.
The Rays, however, have made this once seemingly definite assumption a little unclear in the past couple of weeks. In their last 15 games, they have played great baseball, posting a record of 11-4. They are now in fourth place in the American League East and find themselves 9.0 games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles, and 8.5 games behind in the Wild Card race. The Rays host the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend in what will be their last three games before the All-Star Break.
The Rays’ hot streak could not have come at a better time. Just as the front office was all but ready to give up and call the season a failure, the Rays proved that they are capable of playing the type of baseball that was expected of them this past offseason. After this weekend, the team will have a much-needed break, and can use this time to really evaluate where they stand for the season.
The players need to rest their tired bodies and recharge for what will have to be an extremely successful final two and a half months of the season. The front office will have to decide if they believe in their team’s toughness, and if they are more worried about making the playoffs this season or about investing in seasons to come.
In my opinion, the Rays would be foolish to not continue to at least listen to offers for Price. The trade deadline does not arrive until July 31, which means that the front office has about two weeks after the All-Star break to evaluate their chances of making the postseason. If by the time the end of July rolls around, the team still finds itself pretty far out of first place, they will likely deal Price for the right offer. If the team is still playing well, however, and finds themselves within reach of first place in the extraordinarily weak AL East, they may elect to keep their most valuable player.
Price, meanwhile, continues to pitch at an extremely high level. Since the end of May, he has been pitching like the ace that the Rays have needed all season. He is now 8-7 on the season, with a 3.42 ERA, and an MLB-leading 159 strikeouts. This means that there are certainly plenty of teams that would be more than happy to have Price join their starting rotation. Some of the teams that continue to have their names linked to the lefty are the St. Louis Cardinals, the Seattle Mariners, and the Detroit Tigers.
Another team that at one point seemed pretty unlikely may actually make a real push for Price. The New York Yankees put their ace Masahiro Tanaka on the DL yesterday. He joins CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda on the list of injured starting pitchers for the Bombers. Nova is out for the season, and it appears that Sabathia could miss the rest of the year as well, which means that the Yankees are in desperate need of starting pitching. The Yankees certainly have the money to take on Price’s contract, and there have been reports in the last few days that the Rays may be willing to send Price to another AL East team. Although by no means is this trade scenario probable, I think everyone should keep an eye on the Yankees as we get closer to the end of the month.
It remains very unclear what will happen with David Price and the Rays’ season, which is what makes the month of July one of the most exciting parts of the season. For now, the Rays need to focus on playing well against the Blue Jays this weekend, and resting up for the remainder of their long season during the break.
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