"The guy can't be a free agent for two more years," said an executive of one club. "So technically, [Friedman] can argue that he doesn't really have to move him until July of 2015. That's a long time from now."
And technically, the Rays also can afford to pay Price over the next two years if they choose to, although it would force them to make sacrifices in other areas. Teams and agents we've surveyed expect that if he goes year to year, he would earn between $30 million to $37 million in his final two seasons of arbitration eligibility, depending on how well he pitches next season. And that's not crazy money, not in an era when Scott Kazmir is collecting $11 million a year.
So the approach other clubs are hearing from Tampa Bay is: "If we don't get exactly what we want, we'll keep him. Period." And they admit that if the Rays were to drop Price into the July trading-deadline market, they could actually end up raking in a bigger return than they'd get if they deal him right now. So they can wait, even if they'd prefer not to.
"One thing about Andrew is, he never acts like he has to do something," said one of the executives quoted earlier. "And that's because he never does. … They're always trying to win, but they never have to win. Not the way the Yankees have to win, or the Dodgers have to win, or the Red Sox have to win. They don't have to, because they're never expected to. They win 90 every year, but people never act like they're supposed to.
"So he's in a great spot. He will work it until he gets the very best deal he can make."
But, on the other hand …
"He says he doesn't have to trade him, but realistically, he does," another rival executive said of Friedman. "They're not going to pay the guy $20 million-plus [in 2015] as a five-plus arbitration guy. Their whole model is built on trading these guys and replenishing [their depth of high-end young talent]. And they're going to do it again with Price. You know they are. That's what they do."
What the Rays actually do, because it's what they need to do to survive, is spend life in a never-ending balancing act. In column A, there's the long term. In column B, there's the short term. So whatever they get back for David Price has to do such a spectacular job of maintaining their ability to torment the Yankees and Red Sox over the next five years that it makes it worth their while to give up the chance to win a World Series by keeping him next year. Got it?
So when you hear one interested party say, "Andrew is going for the Herschel Walker trade," you know the Mariners would pretty much have to start the bidding with Taijuan Walker. And the Rangers would have to understand they can't keep Jurickson Profar and make this deal. And if the Dodgers won't talk about someone like Corey Seager, they won't get far, either.
Now it's true that, as Insider's Mike Petriello wrote on this site the other day, there have been very, very few trades -- of former Cy Youngs or any other starters -- that got that big or included prospects that glittering. And when you add in the unlikely scenario that a team trading for Price would have a chance to negotiate an extension first, it makes those elite prospects even harder for any team to include.