I first blogged during spring training about the idea of the St. Louis Cardinals making a deal to land Tampa's lefty ace, David Price, and added more refined thoughts a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to revive and update that now, since we now see more of where the Cardinals are at, knowing that the Rays are out of the AL East running, and knowing what the Cards look like in the minors, as well as knowing that the Cards have two of their most recent starters now moved to the DL, with Jaime Garcia presumably out for the year and Michael Wacha out until the All-Star Game break.
The Cards' offer back starts with what I suggested in March. Either Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller, plus an outfielder — likely one of the hot prospects, whether Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, who have had initial shots in St. Louis, or Stephen Piscotty, as Jon Jay doesn't likely offer enough remaining contract control to interest the Rays. So, one of the young gun OFs, starting with Piscotty and then working up, as negotiations require, is part of the mix. I'd throw in Greg Garcia, if necessary, as Tampa can use him to back up Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, even eyeing him as Zobrist's replacement in 2016. (As I blogged here, the increasing use of infield defensive shifts by other teams, catching up with the pioneering Rays, probably explains why the defensive rating of Zobrist, and other Rays infielders, has declined this year, or at least, it is a serious part of such an explanation.) Given where Tampa is at on contracts and age and costs at both corner OF spots and 1B, I don't see them wanting Allen Craig. More on that, especially at 1B, below.
I would consider Alexander Reyes as a part of any deal. I would NOT consider Marco Gonzales. He's moved a lot further up the ranks, shown a lot more actuality, not just potential, at least at his various minors levels, and, he's a lefty.
That's doubly true with Gonzales now being called up, based on what Mike Matheny said about him, in favorably comparing him to Wacha.
“His composure. His demeanor,” Matheny said. “There are a lot of things we saw in spring training. How he could command the plate but also the corners of the plate. There are some things that he was doing that first of all got our attention to where he would be a first-round pick and the same things we’ve seen as he progressed through the system. It all lines up well for him to come up here and help us do what we need to.”As for minors position players, Aledmys Diaz, like Gonzales, is not for sale on this deal. And, I'm venturing that on him and Gonzales, this is John Mozeliak's stance, not just mine.
Now, from a Cards' point of view, if it's either Lynn or Miller, which do you give up? Miller's got more upside touting, but, he's regressed from last year. At the same time, he's further away from arbitration, which makes him more appealing to the Rays. (It's unclear how Miller's back woes are going to affect anything.)
Regular readers here know I'm no Lynn fan, but, if keeping him for another year is part of the price of Price, then that's what it is. And, I'm less of an anti-fan than I was a year ago. At the same time, Lynn has reportedly solved a problem with tipping his pitches.
Let's just say, for the sake of coming to a conclusion, that the Rays want Miller over Lynn. So, let's say it's a package of Miller and Tavares for sure (if Piscotty or Grichuk aren't enough), with Reyes and/or Garcia for sweeteners.
Lowball? Homer offer? I think not. And, even if it is, I'm not alone, as this blogged offer of Miller/Piscotty/Gonzales indicates. At the same time, my offer avoids the Gonzo trade.
And, Bernie Miklasz cautions not to overpay for Price, too. As does Ken Rosenthal.
First, in response to a commenter on my previous blog post on this subject, Price IS getting moved. (Sorry that it's got you in a bad mood, too, David, but it's reality.) And, per the teams listed by a local beat writer, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it's, relatively speaking, a buyer's market, not a seller's one.
It has become increasingly obvious that the Rays likely — if not absolutely, positively — are going to trade Price over the next 51/2 weeks until the July 31 deadline. They can't afford to keep him long term. They're not going to win with him this year (the thought that they would was part of the reason he wasn't dealt over the winter). And every five days they wait to trade him reduces his value because that means one fewer start he makes for his new team.Just as I said, so says Topkin. And, if you'll look at what he mentions as possible deals with non-Cardinal teams, you'll see that what I mentioned is in no way a lowball offer.
In fact, let's take a look at these:
Angels: 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Alex Yarbrough
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Alberto Tirado
White Sox: 2B Micah Johnson, RHP Erik Johnson, RHP Chris Beck
Yankees: C Gary Sanchez, RHP Luis Severino, C Peter O'Brien
Braves: LHP Alex Wood, RHP Lucas Sims, additional pitching prospect
And, let's analyze.
Angels? A decent prospect 2B plus a just called-up 1B/DH when Rays 1B James Loney is under contract for two more full seasons and primary DH David DeJesus is signed for one more full year plus a team option. (See what I noted about the Cards; a 1B or 1B/DH is not likely to entice the Rays; young pitchers, either alone or in combo with position players at other positions, will. The Rays could "make this work," but I think they'd only say yes if part of a larger package, which, ultimately, would have to include pitching, which the Angels don't have a lot of down at the minors, or in Anaheim.)
Jays? Two prospect pitchers, one of whom, Sanchez, may, or may not, be ready for the big top in 2015, and the other who may, or may not, be ready a year later. It's not a big deal that Sanchez isn't ready for this year, since the Rays are in rebuild mode; however, the fact that his numbers so far say he's not a guarantee for a big-league spot is a bit more problematic.
ChiSox? Micah Johnson is a cut below Yarbrough of the Angels system. Erik Johnson? OK in the minors, unimpressive two years straight at the big show. Beck? Still a AA prospect. This, like my proposed Cards offer, has quantity with a third player, but that's about it.
Yankees? Sanchez could be OK at catcher. Severino? Unknown quality prospect at low minors. O'Brien? Has power, but, why would you trade for two catchers? For that matter, Mr. Topkin, given the Yankees' strapped farm system, why would they trade away two catchers? Plus, the idea that the Rays would trade in-division is iffy, so just nix this one.
Braves? Alex Wood has some potential. Call him a younger Shelby Miller, or younger Lance Lynn. Lucas Sims? Low-minors prospect. If Topkin thinks the Braves would throw in a third pitcher, but he doesn't even have a name to offer, that's weak tea indeed.
None of these is better than what I suggested the Cardinals offer. If Cron is the real verschnizzle with the Angels, it's the only one in the same ballpark from where I sit, and even it comes with caveats. The Rays? Tampa would like two pitchers, but it would like one of them to be closer to MLB-ready.
Again, the Cards offer would have a mix of an MLB-tested pitcher plus a solid, or above-solid OF prospect, and a decent AAA add-on.
The option I propose offers a mix of an established major leaguer, an initial call-up, and a AAA prospect. It offers two pitchers. It offers plenty of cost control.
So, Tampa fans, if you're expecting more than this? You're the "homers," and one of your own sportswriters has said so.
This all said, I don't expect a trade by the Rays, whether to the Cardinals or elsewhere, until closer to the deadline.