Given the recent slide by the Tampa Bay Rays to reach a second worst in the AL 16-23 record, those watching the team are beginning to speculate about the possibility of a David Price trade before the July 31 deadline. No one wants to see Price traded, as he is popular among the fans and his teammates. Even his French Bulldog “Astro” is a popular figure. Nevertheless, the standout pitcher and 2012 Cy Young winner is a valuable asset to the team and may need to be traded before the deadline if the Rays fail to turn around their current tumble.
Price makes $14 million out of a total payroll of $77 million. He is under contract through this season and the team holds arbitration rights for 2015. The payroll is currently the highest ever for the budget conscious team as owner Stuart Sternberg decided to make another strong run at the playoffs again this season. With the exception of Erik Bedard, all starting pitchers and position players are under contract through next season. Although the payroll only ranks 28 out of all MLB teams, the team’s finances are still stretched due to its poor attendance at Tropicana Field. The team ranked last in MLB attendance while winning 92 games last season. If the team continues to slide, the Tampa Bay Rays will suffer at the box office and the David Price trade watch will gain steam.
With injuries to starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, the season has started poorly. Cobb is expected to be called back to the team on May 22, which should provide some relief. Moore is out for the season and Hellickson hopes to be back on the mound soon, but no date for return has been set. The offense has been average and has not made up for the team’s pitching woes. The Rays have enjoyed a reputation as great evaluators and developers of young talent, yet their track record over the last few years has been lackluster. The draft picks between 2008 and 2010, which should be providing big-league-ready talent now, have not panned out. Trading Price would allow the team to at least partially restock the prospect cupboard to potentially give them a chance for another run at success next season.
Joe Madden reached into his bag of tricks earlier this week to pull out bottles of Brut, Old Spice and Aqua Velva cologne for display in the clubhouse. He noted that smell is important and using the old man standbys could remove the stench of losing. Unless the pitching improves on a regular basis, Madden may need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to interrupt the team’s slide.
The Rays squad is built on pitching, defense and just enough offense to win games. With the pitching rotation in tatters, the team continues to suffer. The team does well in close games, given its 7-2 record in games decided by one run. Unfortunately, too many games resemble the 12-5 spanking administered against the Rays by the Mariners on Monday. The team cannot put together enough big innings to overcome a dreadful pitching performance.
Many expected David Price to be dealt after last season and Rays fans rejoiced that Price came back to lead the rotation again this year. Given the recent performance by the Rays, Tampa Bay fans are watching to see if ace David Price will be traded before the deadline. If the team fails to put together a win streak, Price will be suiting up for another squad later this season.
Commentary by William Costolo