The Tampa Bay Rays have had their names in the headlines far more in the last month than they had probably hoped for. The entire team has had to deal with endless speculation as to when, where, and for whom they would be trading their most valuable player, David Price. This is not the first time Price has found himself amidst endless trade rumors, but this time seems to be more certain than ever before. Many see it as a matter of time before the Rays deal the former Cy Young winner in exchange for prospects that can help the team in the long term. Utility man, Ben Zobrist, has also found himself in discussions, as it appears he could be the added piece to any deal to make sure that the Rays get what they want in return.
The Rays’ recent performance, however, has made the discussion of trading away their playoff chances a little more difficult. They are 3-0 since returning from the All Star Break, and have posted an 11-4 record in the month of July. The Rays are 6.0 games out of a Wild Card spot, and 7.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. If the Rays continue to play as well as they have been for the last month or so, they could find themselves in the playoff hunt come September.
This scenario leaves the Rays’ front office with a very tough decision. Trading away one of the best starting pitchers in the league along with the club’s hottest hitter would certainly be too much for the already fragile Rays to handle, and would likely result in a last place finish. This means that they can either take a chance and hope that their team can muster up enough wins to keep them playing in October, or they can pull the plug on this season with hopes that the future offers a better chance of success. As far as interested teams go, it appears that there are two that have a likely chance of making a play to land Price.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been reported to be interested for a while now, and continue to be named in most articles as serious contenders. They have lost two starting pitchers to injury this season, and are in desperate need of someone to fill the void. Jamie Garcia will miss the rest of the season with a rib injury, and it is still undecided when Michael Wacha will return after injuring his right shoulder. The Rays would likely desire one or both of the Cardinals top-tier prospects, Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez.
The Seattle Mariners have been another team that has expressed interest in Price. The Mariners currently hold the second Wild Card spot, and have proven to be surprisingly strong in the American League West, which features the MLB’s two best records (Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels). The Mariners could really put themselves in a good position for the playoffs if they bolstered their rotation with Price, as well as their lineup with Zobrist. Having Felix Hernandez and David Price starting back-to-back games in a playoff series would certainly be intimidating to any club. The one issue for the Mariners would be parting with their top pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, who the Rays are very interested in.
It will be interesting to see how the Price saga concludes, as well as how the Rays play in the meantime. If the Rays stay as hot as they have been, it will certainly make things much more complicated for the next week and a half leading up to the July 31 deadline.
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