The price for Price

There’s been a lot of talk amongst Cardinal fans about potentially trading for Tampa Bay starter David Price since a rumor emerged a couple weeks ago. The rumored deal at the time included the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong, and Oscar Taveras headed to Florida in exchange for Price and Evan Longoria. Further speculation was fueled when the Cardinals’ scouted Price’s start (we aren’t projected to see him at all this season) while the same night Taveras sat in Memphis. Oh, and it was announced that Michael Wacha was skipping a start to boot.

Since then though, the once surplus of starting pitchers has turned into a need. Jaime Garcia’s shoulder issues have shut him down again and he’ll be out for a year as he has surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Meanwhile, Michael Wacha has developed a stress fracture in his scapula.

That means Carlos Martinez is needed in the rotation and we’ll need someone else to fill the gap. Thankfully, Joe Kelly is just a couple weeks away and Marco Gonzales has filled in admirably in his stead.

While you can still trade a starting pitcher, you’ll have to get one in return. So a trade for Price or another similarly capable pitcher can still be made. So what will Tampa Bay be looking for in return for their ace?

Let’s start with what they won’t be asking for. The Rays place a great deal of importance on cost controlled years of players. They have very little interest in players who have already started to dig into those. So that means no Allen Craig, no Shelby Miller, and no Matt Adams.

When you look at the trade a couple years ago when the Rays dealt James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals they received OF Will Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and IF Patrick Leonard. Myers would be Baseball America’s #4 prospect to start the 2013 season and was the centerpiece of the return for the Rays. Montgomery and Odorizzi had been #23 and #68 entering the previous season while Leonard had just completed a very good season of rookie ball. So basically the Rays received two top-25 prospects, another top-100 prospect, and a lottery ticket.

It gives you an idea of just how much will be required to pry Price away from the Rays.

The unwritten rule in this situation is that if you’re dealing a player of Price’s caliber, you have to bring back the other team’s #1 prospect in either hitting or pitching. That means either #3 Oscar Taveras or #31 Carlos Martinez. Since I think the team needs Taveras more, I want to keep him, so that means I’d send Martinez. Not to mention, the Rays seem to have a solid amount of corner outfield talent already.

Beyond Taveras and Martinez, the Cardinals have two other top-100 prospects on the latest Baseball America list. That’s #58 Kolten Wong and #70 Stephen Piscotty.

I’d imagine Martinez, Wong, and Piscotty would have to be the starting point along with a couple well regarded low minors prospects. Not to mention that if the Cardinals want to get the deal done sooner, rather than later, they’ll need to pay a premium.

So is that something the Cardinals are willing to pay? Only John Mozeliak knows. But I think the potential upside of such a deal exceeds the downside.

Adding a guy like Price gives Adam Wainwright a proven partner at the top of the rotation. It gives you another pitcher that isn’t under an innings watch. If Wacha can return this year, Wainwright-Price-Wacha is a killer playoff rotation, even if you plug me in at #4.

The Cardinals are also reading the point where they need to thin out the prospect pool. Very soon they’re going to lose value because everyone knows you’re stacked and need to make room. If nothing changes, the Cardinals are going to roll into Spring Training next year with 7 pitchers once again vying for a starting rotation spot. Not to mention there’s Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales, and Tim Cooney putting their names on the list of potential roster spots too. Every year you wait, the list of guys gets longer.

The last couple years the Cardinals have struggled to find a good value match on the trade market. The one way you can find that is to go big. So you might as well go big. This team is only 5 games out of the division lead after all the struggles of the first half. With the right acquisition and nowhere for the offense to go but up, I’d be very optimistic about our chances.