Jun 25, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) takes the field for the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pros and Cons of Going After David Price

It’s that time of year again.  David Price is available… and somebody will probably get him this time.  Should the Braves do so?  Well, let’s at least do our due diligence and weigh out the pros and cons of such a deal.

 

The Pros

  • Right now, he is clearly the best starting pitcher that is clearly available via trade.  He himself said just yesterday that he’s locked in and throwing better than he ever has before.  The stats clearly show it, too.
  • He would improve the entire staff.  David Price is an ace-level pitcher.  Whether you believe that Julio Teheran or Mike Minor are pitching that well doesn’t matter:  adding Price means that the Braves would have three starters – and four if you count Alex Wood – who could go out and match up against anybody.  If you’re trying to improve the staff, nibbling around the 3rd-to-5th rotation slot isn’t useful:  we have those pitchers (David Hale and Aaron Harang).  If you’re going to make an addition, you add to the top.  In this way, you add a new #1 and remove and old #5.
  • It’s not just about the playoffs.  Price would help you get there.  The Braves had a solid rotation right now, but certainly Price – pitching full-time  in the National League for the first time – would also help over the second half of the season.
  • “using your farm system as leverage to improve the major league team is a good and valid strategy”
    Price is under contract through 2015.  He is not a “rental” pitcher.  He would be available through the 2015 season.  That should make the cost of obtaining him much more palatable, but I’ll get to that later.
  • He’s at least worth a draft pick.  Keep Price through 2015 and he is worth a compensation draft pick should he go the free agent route.
  • If the Braves get him, nobody else will have him.  No, this isn’t a “Captain Obvious” statementit’s a real consideration.  Look – it’s playoff contenders that dip their toes in these waters:  the kinds of teams that Atlanta has been failing to knock off in the playoffs over the past couple of years.  Certainly, the chances of success in the playoffs for a Milwaukee, St. Louis or even the Dodgers would improve if any of those clubs landed David Price.  Certainly Atlanta’s chances would be reduced if any of those scenarios came to pass.
  • Geographic preference?  Price is from “Braves’ Country” – in this case, it’s Murfreesboro, TN (just SE of Nashville).  He went to Vanderbilt.  So did Mike Minor.  Remember his agent’s comment from the Winter Meetings?  Would Price be interested in signing an extension deal with Seattle?  “No.”  Are there cities that he’d want to sign a long-term deal with?  “Yes.”  I can only speculate here, but you’d have to think that Atlanta would be on the “opt-in” list.
  • He solves a big problem for next season.  We already know that neither Brandon Beachy nor Kris Medlen will be available to start the year.  Given their situations, there’s no guarantees that either will be back, period.  Meanwhile, Aaron Harang, Santana, and Floyd will also be gone.  That leaves a huge hole.  So who do you want to pitch next year?  A former Cy Young winner or some unknown ‘veteran free agent’?

 

The Cons

  • The trade will be costly to the farm system.  Big time. The Braves took a large hit when Gavin Floyd went down for the year… maybe not so much about the loss of his arm (since I believe he would have been traded within the next week or so), but in terms of the prospect(s) Atlanta might have received in return.  If I were doing it, I would have been making sure that I knew of the Rays’ needs so that I could make a Floyd deal that looked forward to a Price deal.  Unfortunately, that’s now all a moot point.
    A deal for David Price would certainly require the Braves’ best prospect:  Lucas Sims.  It would probably also require David Hale, plus another significant minor league player or two.  I would offer Joey Terdoslavich, as he provides utility to the Rays, and he has little future with his current organization.  Any way you slice it, though, that’s a big price to pay (no pun intended).
  • Competition will raise the cost even higher.  No doubt.  Teams already linked to him to some degree include Milwaukee, St. Louis, the Yankees, the Blue Jays, Detroit, and the Angels.  There are several “heavy hitters” in there – including some with the depth of a farm system to pull off a deal.  That trade outline I suggested above?  That could easily be trumped.
  • Pitchers are risky – always.  Price has not had a major injury during his career.  You could say he’s ‘due’.  He’s on pace for his fourth 200 inning season over the past five years… and had 186 in the exception year (2013).
  • He’s Expensive.  $14,000,000 this year and probably something around $17-19 million for 2015.  Yes, that’s a lot though I have a rebuttal for that.

 

The Rebuttals

  • Salary.  Believe it or not, this is actually not an issue.  The Braves went a bit beyond their own comfort zone in getting Ervin Sanata and Gavin Floyd.  They cost the team a total of $18,000,000.  Huh.  Interesting number, given my projection for Price’s cost in 2015.
  • Atlanta has $77,658,000 in committed salary for 2015 already with 8 arbitration cases.  Two are significant:  Mike Minor and Kris MedlenRyan Doumit and Gerald Laird are free agents – one or both are likely gone.  Still, that leaves quite a bit of payroll space for a David Price.
  • Even in 2014, the Braves had to have budgeted for performance bonuses that Gavin Floyd would have earned – another $4 million (+/-) for additional starts that now will not occur.  Price is due roughly $7 million more this year… yes, it’s a stretch, but should not be out of the question.
  • Supposing Atlanta were to try and take the extraordinary step of getting David Price signed up for an extension (which would have to be 5-6 years at $22-24 million each), then the numbers are not terribly out of the question:  Dan Uggla and Justin Upton come off the books in 2016 (the same year a Price extension would begin).
  • Yes pitchers are risky, but then so are the pitchers that would be given up in trade.  Lucas Sims is the best we’ve got to offer, but frankly, would you rather have a Ace Cy Young Award winner or a guy who might develop into one?
  • Finally, the Braves are in an interesting predicament:  they typically draft late because they have been typically good.  We don’t get extra draft picks for “competitive balance” or anything else.   On average, their farm system will therefore not produce as many top-flight prospects… unless their scouting is better than that of other teams.  On-field evidence suggests this is the case, but the point here is that using your farm system as leverage to improve the major league team is a good and valid strategy.  Obviously this should be done wisely, but with many players now signed to long-term deals, it makes sense to sell assets that will not be needed.

 

Yes – in terms of full disclosure – I am an advocate of the Braves trying to muster a trade for David Price.  I’ve made no secret of this.  But as I’ve tried to make the case for such a deal – with a mindful eye in the other direction – I want to know what y’all think:  do it or not?  But please also give us your reasons in the comments section below!

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