2015 Season Previews: Detroit Tigers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Detroit Tigers

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (1st in AL Central, 12th in MLB)

Manager: Brad Ausmus (90-72 in one season with Detroit)

Top Three Players: 1B Miguel Cabrera (5.3), LHP David Price (4.0), 2B Ian Kinsler (3.8)

Bounce-back Player: SS Jose Iglesias

Iglesias was having a breakout campaign in Boston in 2013 before being traded to the Tigers and crashing down to a .259/.306/.348 triple-slash. Fortunately, he was still able to provide elite-level defense, something that the Tigers didn’t have with Jhonny Peralta manning short. After missing all of 2014 with a stress fracture in his lower leg, the Tigers are hoping for a return to form, but you have to wonder if they’ll be satisfied with the offensive production they received from him in late-2013, or if they’re expecting him to be closer to the .330/.376/.409 that he had with Boston, and if he is capable of defensive wizardry after the leg injury. Still, he doesn’t have the pressure on him to be an elite offensive producer with the lineup around him, so expect some value out of him.

What is the ceiling of Castellanos?
What is the ceiling of Castellanos?

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Nick Castellanos

It may just seem like Castellanos has been around forever, but he only has 597 career plate appearances and enters the 2015 season at the age of just 23. At a lanky 6’4″, 210 pounds, the young third baseman will continue to demonstrate a long swing, which will continue to lead to strikeouts, but he has the protection in the order, just like Iglesias, to not be expected to carry the burden of production. Castellanos will never have a .300/.400/.500 season due to his inability to take a pitch, but, if that changes a little and he begins seeing more fastballs, you’ll quickly see an increase in the number of home runs that he can produce. Expect some of those 31 doubles from 2014 to start flying out, as he increases his long-ball total closer to 24 in 2015. He’ll be a top 10 third baseman by the end of the season.

Offseason Overview: Detroit lost their ace, Max Scherzer, to the Washington Nationals via free agency, and complicated their rotation further by dealing Rick Porcello in a deal for OF Yoenis Cespedes. While Cespedes provides ample power for an already potent lineup, the starting rotation took quite a hit, as the club is now without both Scherzer and Porcello, while Doug Fister and Drew Smyly were dealt within the last 15 months. Sure, they added LHP David Price at the deadline last year, but RHP Alfredo Simon (acquired from Cincinnati) and RHP Shane Greene (acquired from the Yankees) have joined Price, RHP Anibal Sanchez, and former superstar-turned-Instagram-hero Justin Verlander in the rotation. In addition to the suddenly impotent (in comparison to one year ago) rotation, the bullpen continues to be an issue. The defense could be a little better, especially with a healthy Iglesias and OF Anthony Gose, a speedy outfielder acquired from Toronto, in the mix, but this isn’t the same group who has won the AL Central the last four seasons.

The Verdict: Detroit continues to reshape their roster into an offensive juggernaut, but rather than having a rotation to match, the Tigers have set themselves up to be quite vulnerable in a very competitive AL Central. The projected 82-80 PECOTA record seems quite conservative for Detroit, and, while they’ll likely finish with at least 85 wins, it likely won’t be enough to win the division. The Tigers don’t have the depth in their minor league system to endure injuries, and they have another year on the arm of Verlander and the body of Cabrera. Even with the tremendous offense, this could be the season that Detroit can’t overcome their consistent lack of depth.

Tigers Pay the Price and Win

Tigers LHP David Price
Tigers LHP David Price

The Detroit Tigers confused the world of baseball this winter when they traded right-hander Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Robbie Ray. Fister had three years of team control remaining, and he was coming off of two very good seasons (3.29 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) in Detroit. Ray was rated as the 97th best prospect prior to the 2014 season by MLB.com, but after the Tampa Bay Rays were able to get the haul that they did (including Wil Myers) for two years of control of James Shields, it was assumed by many that Fister would bring much more than a single prospect, particularly one that had posted most of his solid 2013 numbers while repeating High-A.

  Continue reading Tigers Pay the Price and Win

Trade Deadline Most Wanted: David Price

Rays LHP David Price, one hot commodity
Rays LHP David Price, one hot commodity

With a little over five weeks remaining until the trade deadline, rumors of names heading to contending teams are starting to heat up. Among the names is David Price, the three-time All-Star and 2012 AL Cy Young winner, who is under team-control through the 2015 season and will likely fetch a very strong return, likely similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays received for James Shields, if the last place Rays decide to be sellers at the trade deadline. After Wednesday afternoon’s performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his stock seems to be at its peak for a potential deal.

In front of 23,761 of the finest retirees in St. Petersburg, Florida, Price pitched 8.1 innings, allowing just five hits, one run, coming on a solo home run to Andrew McCutchen in the top of the 9th, while striking out 11, and walking one. Price became the first pitcher since Johan Santana in 2004 to strike out at least 10 batters in five straight starts. Price now has a Greg Maddux-like 144:14 K:BB in 124 innings in 2014. While his ERA stands at 3.63 after the strong performance, Price’s FIP is 2.99, and the Rays, who have scored 300 runs in their 80 games (3.75 R/G), aren’t scoring nearly enough runs to allow Price to win as many games as he should have at this point. In his five masterful strikeout performances in June, Price is now just 2-3 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and a 54:5 K:BB over 39.2 innings.

The line forming for Price’s services is extending each day. The most recent name to drop in is laughably the Los Angeles Angels, whose farm system is the weakest in baseball and would require a three-way deal including Mike Trout to get the pieces necessary to deal prospects for Price. There are plenty of players, though.

Cardinals' Future Star and trade chip Oscar Taveras
Cardinals’ Future Star and trade chip Oscar Taveras

Steve Kinsella (@Steve_Kinsella1), of Sports Talk Florida, mentioned in a piece published Wednesday that the Dodgers and Cardinals are two teams that meet the criteria of an impressively stocked farm system. He mentioned hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez and outfielder Oscar Taveras being interesting pieces for the Rays from St. Louis, while the Dodgers could toss out the names of 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias, right-hander Zach Lee, outfielder Joc Pederson, and shortstop Corey Seager, as possible names in a deal. It’s hard to argue with either of those deals on the Tampa Bay side, as they would need to acquire enough talent to have a deal worth completing, but it’s fair to question whether they have any leverage when so many other teams know that they don’t want to risk going to arbitration prior to the 2015 season and paying Price nearly $20 million given the club’s weak attendance and non-existent revenue capabilities in their market.

While the Cardinals and Dodgers appear to be capable of the top bids, it likely won’t stop there. Here are some other possible suitors:

Baltimore: Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jonathon Schoop could be nice long-term options for the Rays in some sort of package, as the pitching rich Orioles push for contention in the AL East.

Boston: Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Blake Swihart, or one of Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks may be enticing for the Rays, though the Red Sox lack of youth may keep them from dealing from their future core, especially with the club’s lack of interest in expensive, long-term deals.

Seattle: James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Gabriel Guerrero, D.J. Pederson, and Victor Sanchez would be a nice group to choose from, and we all know that the Mariners think that they’re making a run for it after the Robinson Cano signing. Acquiring Price would be costly, but would strengthen an already strong Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma led rotation.

Kansas City: Sean Manaea, Raul Mondesi, Jr., Kyle Zimmer, Jorge Bonifacio, Hunter Dozier, and Miguel Almonte are at the top of a Royals system that some was drained when they traded Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers to the Rays for Shields. Dayton Moore may not have a strong manager and a strong win-loss record as the Royals GM, but the man can draft and develop talent.

David Price is very unlikely to finish the 2014 season in a Rays uniform. He would certainly be a huge addition with a huge cost for whatever team is gutsy enough to strike up a deal. Much like the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 (Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 17 starts for the Brewers), the sooner Price can make an impact for the acquiring team, the better the deal will look, especially given the hauls.

 

The Intelligence of the Rays Shines Again

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed right-handed starter Chris Archer to an extension. The deal will, potentially, buyout, when including the options, three free agency seasons from Archer. The 25-year-old wasn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season.

Rays RHP Chris Archer
Rays RHP Chris Archer

After going 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 23 starts and 128.2 innings in his rookie season, the Rays were wise to lockup the 6’3″ righty, giving the Rays a solid 1-2 foundation in Archer and Matt Moore in coming seasons, especially with the likely departure of David Price through free agency or a trade prior to the end of his team-controlled time in Tampa, which would be the end of the 2015 season.

The Rays seem to be having a more difficult time developing their own since they’ve been drafting at the back-end of the MLB Draft due to their recent run of success. Last season’s trade with the Kansas City Royals that send James Shields to K.C. brought the Rays major league-ready talent in Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers, but the system isn’t nearly as deep as it was several seasons ago, and a lot of the top-end, top of the draft talent that came to the Rays in their worst seasons are now becoming too expensive to realistically keep due to the club’s continued revenue struggles in a weak baseball market.

The Rays ownership and management may not have a lot of money to spend, but they can’t stop here. There are still a few players on the club’s roster that would be worth locking up to similar contracts, including the aforementioned Myers, whose ability to hit for power will be absolutely damning to the Rays within the arbitration process.

Alex Cobb should get a similar deal to what Archer received, though, he could be receive quite a bit more guaranteed money due to reaching arbitration after the 2014 season. Cobb’s success could also lead to more guaranteed money, as the 26-year-old right-hander had a breakout 2013 season, interrupted by a horrific injury on a comebacker, in which Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, establishing himself as a possible pseudo-ace if the Rays were to field offers for Price during or after the 2014 season. Already one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, Cobb’s devastating changeup and above average control would provide the Rays with the top of the rotation arm that they can continue to add to that rotation with youngsters like Odorizzi, Nate Karns (who already 26), Enny Romero, and Alex Colome (when he returns from his suspension).

Additionally, Desmond Jennings appears to be a fantastic candidate for the club to lockup. Like Cobb, Jennings will be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season. Already 27, Jennings hasn’t really shown star-level talent, but he has the tools to be productive, although he did show negative value defensively in his first full season in centerfield. Perhaps Jennings is more of a left fielder than a centerfielder, but the Rays had quite a bit of success out of a toolsy outfielder who played left for several years, Carl Crawford. Jennings blend of power, speed, and solid but not elite on-base skills, would be a nice addition to the long-term building of a club that continues to come up short offensively.

 

Rays 3B Evan Longoria
Rays 3B Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria will be a Ray for life due to his MLB Player’s Association loathing contract, but the Archer contract could and should be a sign of things to come from Tampa. The Rays need more contracts like those of Longoria, Archer, and Moore to survive in the current market that is only being enhanced by the success of Major League Baseball Advanced Media and local television contract revenue. As those who focus on the numbers and dollars of baseball seem to be developing the cost of a win as a foundation for free agency money, it appears less likely that the Rays and other cash-strapped teams will find it more difficult to fill holes on their rosters with free agents, which will make these so-called team-friendly deals all the more necessary for those teams. It will be interesting if the player’s association and agents find a way to combat the risk for the player in taking such financial security deals, while potentially leaving millions of dollars on the bargaining table. In the meantime, teams, especially the Rays, should continue to do all that they can to make these Archer-like deals happen.

 

Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

With the big signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the market for free agency and trades could explode over the next several days. With that in mind, I was thinking about some deals that would make tremendous sense for several teams…although, they could just make sense to me. Regardless, here are some deals that I’d like to see made over the next few weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner

PhillipsWhy This Trade Makes Sense: The Yankees clearly want to get back to the top, as their $155 million investment in Tanaka showed. With Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore as the current options at second base, New York could use a more reliable name to replace Robinson Cano. While the Reds don’t have an immediate replacement ready for Phillips (outside of Henry Rodriguez or another position change for Billy Hamilton), they need to clear some payroll in order to lock up Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, as well as Homer Bailey, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Phillips, who is due $50 million over the next four years, could be a bargain based on the current market, while his ability to play defensively at an elite level will provide quite a bit of value, as well. Gardner is unlikely to provide the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided last season in Cincinnati, but he would provide elite-level defensive skills, speed, and solid on-base skills (career OBP of .352). Gardner, earning $5.6 million in 2014 prior to reaching free agency after the season, would be an upgrade over a 2014 version of Hamilton, while providing quite a bit of financial flexibility to shore up the rotation for the coming seasons in Cincinnati. Even if Cincinnati had to chip in $10 million in salary relief, it would be an interesting deal for both clubs.

Baltimore Orioles Sign A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $14 million deal

burnettWhy This Signing Makes Sense: In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles surprised the world by contending and finishing 2nd in the AL East with 93 wins. In 2013, there was a slight regression, as the team dipped to 85 wins after doing very little over the offseason. The Orioles have been very active in the minor league free agent market this winter, but they could use a splash, and Burnett would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman make a good, young rotation, but Burnett would be the anchor for the staff, and his presence would allow the club to move Norris to a (more appropriate) bullpen role. Burnett is from Maryland and he has been rumored to be retiring if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh, but Baltimore is close to home and he can keep his wife happy, and the spare change for one year would be worth it for both sides. Burnett rebuilt his value with two tremendous seasons with the Pirates, and he is worth a one-year deal for Baltimore for another shot at the AL East for the tattooed right-hander. Sure, it seems like it is going to be Pittsburgh or bust, but the Orioles are contenders with a healthy Manny Machado and consistent production from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters – the O’s need to do their due diligence here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign Matt Garza to a five-year, $60 million deal (I know he was rumored to have signed with Milwaukee for four-years, $52 million pending a physical, but it isn’t official…yet)

GarzaWhy This Signing Makes Sense: The Jays need another solid option in their rotation to compliment R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, so that their offense isn’t wasted on sloppy rotation options like Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey, and Rickey Romero, who combined to make 27 starts last season. While Garza has some injury concerns, the Blue Jays have already given him a dynamic weapon – Dioner Navarro. With Navarro as his catcher, Garza has logged 338.1 innings and managed a 3.25 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while Garza has posted a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with anyone else behind the dish. While there is risk involved due to Garza spending 170 team games on the disabled list the last three seasons with right shoulder and elbow injuries, the Jays need a pitcher who is capable of pitching in the AL East (Garza has done it before), can toss 180 or more innings (Garza has done it four times), and would be a significant upgrade over Rogers, Todd Redmond, and J.A. Happ, while the club waits for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Alberto Tirado, Daniel Norris, and Sean Nolin to reach the majors. Garza may not be a number one starter, but he is a strong number two or three option on a club that should compete with an absolutely loaded offensive group.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a five-year, $85 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Phillies first round pick, seventh overall, is protected, so while Jimenez would require draft-pick compensation, it would only be a second round pick going to Cleveland for Jimenez. After a tremendous second half in 2013 (1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 84 innings), Jimenez rebuilt his value, and, at the age of 30, would be a solid right-handed option for the Phillies to place between Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Jimenez has had some success during his career in the NL East:

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Atlanta Braves 3 5 3.79 9 0 1 1 54.2 47 25 23 6 28 66 1.372 10.9 2.36
Miami Marlins 1 2 4.07 5 0 0 0 24.1 23 19 11 1 16 31 1.603 11.5 1.94
New York Mets 2 3 3.40 6 0 0 0 39.2 27 15 15 4 21 29 1.210 6.6 1.38
Washington Nationals 5 1 2.61 7 0 0 0 48.1 39 14 14 1 16 36 1.138 6.7 2.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

For those who don’t want to do the math, Jimenez is 11-11 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 162:81 K:BB over 167 innings and 27 starts, and while that isn’t perfect, especially in a ballpark that is more favorable to hitters, Jimenez should, at least, be worth the money as an innings eater if he isn’t elite like he was in the second half of 2013. The Phillies may not be contenders, but they’ll always be spenders. They don’t have any arms ready in their system and Jimenez would be a huge upgrade over Roberto Hernandez and Ethan Martin, who appear to be options for the rotation currently.

Oakland Athletics Sign Nelson Cruz to a three-year, $27 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Cruz market appears nearly dead after there was draft-pick compensation added to a PED suspension, but Cruz is still just 33 and he is coming off of an All-Star season with solid production (27 home runs and 76 RBI in just 109 games). With very little interest and risk involved, it’s the perfect opportunity for Oakland to swoop in and make an interesting signing. While the club has some solid right-handed pop in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the remainder of the lineup is filled with left-handed hitters, including Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, as well as switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie. Another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat would be a tremendous addition, as Reddick or Moss could sandwich between Cruz and Cespedes, providing quite a bit of value and production for a team that struggles to find offense in a cavernous home ballpark. However, Cruz has struggled in Oakland, posting a .192/.248/.352 triple-slash in 202 career plate appearances there. The late first round pick and discounted contract, though, could be enough to overlook his struggles, while providing a little more punch to the Oakland lineup.

Texas Rangers Sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $24 million deal

ArroyoWhy This Signing Makes Sense: Arroyo has been homer prone in the past and doesn’t have the stuff to avoid bats, but he has averaged 211 innings pitched over the last nine seasons and is someone whom the Rangers could count on with Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison coming back from injuries and Derek Holland on the shelf until mid-2014. Arroyo survived in a bandbox in Cincinnati over the last eight seasons, so he would be just as likely to post 200-plus innings and an ERA around 4.00 in Texas, especially with spacious ballparks like those in Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim within the division. There isn’t draft-pick compensation tied to Arroyo, and with Masahiro Tanaka gone and no real hope of acquiring David Price in a trade, the Rangers just need five starting pitchers, and Arroyo is a nice, reliable addition for the middle or back-end of the Texas rotation.

Atlanta Braves Trade Alex Wood to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez

Why This Trade Makes Sense: C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hiroki Kuroda make a great top three and Ivan Nova showed drastic improvements last season, but the Yankees are relying on David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Manny Banuelos at the back of the rotation in 2014. While Alex Wood has one of the more violent deliveries you’ll ever see, he has solid stuff and is ready to be productive immediately in a major league rotation. With Brandon Beachy healthy and David Hale and Gavin Floyd capable of filling the back of the Braves rotation, Wood could be expendable for Atlanta to seek a long-term option at catcher with the departure of Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency. Evan Gattis has a lot of power and Christian Bethancourt has tremendous defensive skills, but neither seem like strong options as an everyday catcher for Atlanta. While Sanchez still needs some seasoning and he could use a change of scenery due to his makeup and maturity concerns, the Braves have several upcoming arms, as usual, and they have a long-term need at catcher. Sanchez could be the answer and the eventual elbow surgery that Wood will need is worth this type of deal for Atlanta, and the production that the Yankees get out of Wood could be useful, as well.

Logan Morrison: LoMo NoMo in Seattle?

Hart
Recent Seattle additions: Corey Hart and Logan Morrison

When the Seattle Mariners acquired first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison from the Miami Marlins via trade for relief pitcher Carter Capps on the same day that the club signed first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart away from the Milwaukee Brewers via free agency, I felt that there was something strange to the deal. The Mariners already had a lot of options at first base, albeit not tremendous ones, in Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero (who has likely moved off of catcher and is a first baseman/DH), and Dustin Ackley (who appears to be a utility player and has experience at first base from his time playing the position at North Carolina). Adding familiar, more successful names, particularly with Hart and the huge Robinson Cano signing was one thing, but how does Morrison really fit in with the Seattle club?

After making some noise in his first 185 games of his career for the Marlins by posting a .259/.351/.460 with 45 doubles, 11 triples, 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a 150:95 K:BB in 812 plate appearances, Morrison has bombed to a .236/.321/.387 triple-slash since the start of the 2012 season, with 28 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 72 RBI, and a 114:69 K:BB in 667 plate appearances. There is still some production there, but Morrison hasn’t been nearly as impressive; however, considering that he is still just 26, there would seem to be some time for him to get his career back on track. But will it be in Seattle?

MorrisonIn addition to the gluttony of first basemen in Seattle, Logan Morrison is an absolute nightmare in the outfield, as he has posted a -26.9 UZR in his career as a left fielder, which is, of course, much worse than the -4.3 UZR that he has provided as a first baseman. After Corey Hart missed all of the 2013 season due to micro-fracture surgery on his right knee, it is safe to assume that he will either be the Mariners’ new DH or first baseman, which could be troublesome for the Seattle defensive outlook if it forces Morrison to the outfield on a full-time basis.

Which brings me to the continued efforts and rumors of a David Price to Seattle trade…After likely losing James Loney to free agency (especially considering his rumored $9-10 million annual salary that he is seeking), the Tampa Bay Rays could still use a first baseman, as the current roster makeup would leave a lot of playing time for Sean Rodriguez at first base, which doesn’t seem like a smart, Rays-like idea. So, could it be possible that the Mariners stole Morrison, which they did in acquiring him for a bullpen arm in Carter, to package him with other, in-house players in a deal for David Price?

It isn’t as if Logan Morrison could be the central figure in the Rays’ return in a deal, but three years of team control on a player with enough of a bat to be useful within Tampa’s unconventional, stats-driven ideology would make him an intriguing addition. With Cano at second base, Nick Franklin appears to be available, and while he isn’t much of a defender at shortstop, the Rays have Yunel Escobar through the 2014 season, with slick fielding shortstop Hak-Ju Lee coming up the prospect pipeline. Franklin could take over second base in 2015 if the Rays decline Ben Zobrist‘s 2015 option (very unlikely with a $7.5 million salary and his yearly effectiveness), or the club could utilize Zobrist all over the field, as they have done over the last several seasons. Taijuan Walker, the 21-year-old top prospect of the Mariners, continues to be the key name mentioned as the centerpiece of a deal, and by packaging this trio to Tampa Bay, the Mariners rotation would have one of the most frightening rotations this side of the Greg MadduxJohn SmoltzTom Glavine Braves, and Tampa would have affordable, young, major league ready talent that they continually covet. (Side Note: The Mariners gave Corey Hart the No.27, Walker’s number from 2013…were they suggesting something here?)

The Mariners shocked the world when they swooped in and signed Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million deal, and they appear to have moved from a slow and steady rebuild to a team looking to contend immediately. With a unique blend of young talent in Ackley, Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino, and Kyle Seager already around, the addition of Cano, Morrison, and Hart seemed to implode the existing philosophies on where the team was heading in a matter of a week.

PriceMorrison may not be a star, but he could have been the additional piece needed to pluck David Price away from the Tampa Bay Rays. While there have been plenty of questionable moves by Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik over the last several seasons, the acquisition of Morrison wasn’t one of them, and as the team looks to continue to make bold moves to turn itself into immediate contenders, it will be interesting to see how many more deals and signings could be made in the Pacific Northwest to bring a winner back to the house that Griffey built.

Why the Rays MUST Trade David Price

Price
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays had another excellent season in 2013, winning 90 games for the fifth time in six seasons, something that seemed nearly impossible during the club’s first ten years in existence, when the Rays lost 91 or more games each season, including more than 100 games three times. Obviously, winning is still somewhat new to the Rays organization, but it will continue to be something that they intend on doing, as the smart, creative thinkers in the front office manipulate their data and their finances to field a strong, perennial contender in the AL East.

With that being said, now is the time for the team to trade their best starting pitcher, David Price.

It isn’t a money thing. It isn’t something that improves the current roster. It has everything to do with the future of the franchise and the Rays’ success.

Prior to the 2013 season, the Rays traded James Shields, Wade Davis, and Elliot Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. While Davis had an affordable contract and showed some signs of potential in 2012 out of the bullpen, the two years remaining on Shields’ contract was the primary focus of the deal for the Royals. The Rays were seeking major league ready talent and received Myers as the centerpiece of their return, a right-handed hitting slugger who compiled a whopping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, leaving him as the No.4 ranked prospect in baseball entering the 2013 season. Odorizzi has always had solid stuff and was likely to become a mid-rotation starter, while Montgomery, who was the 19th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season (according to Baseball America), before injuries and control issues halted his progression. Myers was obviously the major part of the deal, and while they lost Shields, the team was in need of offensive help, which Myers bat certainly provided. The deal will make the Rays competitive for several seasons, but they need more help than just Myers and Odorizzi, and that is why Price must go.

In 2013, Chris Archer made 23 starts for the Rays, while Odorizzi made seven appearances (four starts), Alex Colome made three appearances (all starts). and Enny Romero made one appearance (a start), and all three of these starting pitching prospects will play a major role with the club going forward; however, the club’s number one prospect, Taylor Guerrieri, had Tommy John surgery and will likely miss all of 2014, on top of a second positive test for a drug of abuse, which leads to some character questions considering his already checkered past. Beyond Odorizzi, Colome, and Romero likely contributing in 2014 in some way, the rest of the Tampa Bay system is not where it has been in years past. Their top position prospect is shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who missed nearly all of 2013 due to an injury to his left knee, a tremendous defensive shortstop with excellent speed who may not have a strong enough hit tool to be any more than a No.8 or No.9 hitter in the majors. The rest of the system doesn’t appear anywhere near ready to help the club, which could be a huge issue within the next couple of seasons when you consider that the Rays ranked in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored (9th).

The Rays need bats, not necessarily major league ready bats but bats that will be ready to help the club within the next two to three years. However, landing position players with team-control is also a sufficient alternative. Within the top 20 players in the system (according to MLB.com), the Rays have 10 starting pitching prospects, all of whom have posted solid minor league numbers and have very good stuff, including: Blake Snell, Ryne Stanek, Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn, Felipe Rivero, and the previously mentioned Guerrieri, Odorizzi, Colome, Montgomery, and Romero. Only Lee, Mikie Mahtook, and Tim Beckham, the failed No.1 overall pick from the 2008 MLB Draft, have sniffed competition above Double-A among the 10 position prospects on the list. To maintain strong pitching and enough offense to win games in the AL East, the Rays must deal from their strength, and that is David Price.

While creating potential trade scenarios is always fun, it is also very unpredictable, as you never know what teams are actually thinking when it comes to their long-term outlook on a given player. With that being said, here are a few deals that would make sense for the Rays:

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

Price to the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor, and Lewis Brinson. Profar could take over second base in 2014, pushing Ben Zobrist to left field, keeping Myers in right and Desmond Jennings in center. Yunel Escobar is under contract for the 2014 season at $5 million and Profar can move to short in 2015, giving Odor another season to fine tune his skills at second. Brinson is an absolute wild card. He has tremendous tools but no true bat to ball skills at this point, which led to his 191 strikeouts in 447 at-bats in 2013 for Hickory.

Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Scott Schebler. Pederson is near ready to step in and play left, with Jennings manning center field, and has the ability to drive the ball and utilize his speed to the tune of several 20 HR/20 SB seasons. Seager could be a future star on the left side of the infield, but he may not be able to handle short long-term and Evan Longoria is at third, so…first base or an outfield corner could still allow Seager to be useful – he will be capable of those types of numbers. Schebler had 69 extra-base hits in the California League in 2013 at the age of 22, while striking out 140 times. He could be useful since he hit .301 against left-handers and .294 against right-handers, but after a pretty sad season in 2012, he is a gamble as a prospect when you consider that his lone productive season was in a hitter’s paradise.

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Price to the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, Tyler Naquin, and C.C. Lee. Lindor, like Profar, would be a tremendous addition at shortstop for the long haul. He may not hit 15-20 home runs, but he has great on-base skills and contact ability as a hitter, setting the table for the middle of the order from the top of the lineup. Salazar is a beast and while the Rays may not have a need for another arm, Salazar could be a solid No.2 starter for years to come (and the Indians don’t really have a better prospect to team with Lindor to make this a good deal). Naquin is an above-average defender with a strong arm who may never hit enough to be more than a No.4 outfielder. He does have solid on-base skills but if he turns into a Sam Fuld type of player, the Rays should be thrilled – and the Rays manage to get a lot out of players like Fuld. Lee had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and is a very good relief prospect as the final piece.

While none of these trades will net the Rays 15-20 wins like David Price could in 2014, the club has to look beyond 2014, as they did in 2013 when they traded another top of the rotation starter in James Shields for several solid pieces and spare parts. The baseball operations and player development staff of the Rays is very intelligent and they likely have several ideas laid out involving a potential deal for David Price this winter. As rumors fly in the coming weeks of the hot stove season, Rays fans can only hope that the haul that the club could net is as strong as some of these mentioned above.

With a system that isn’t as strong as it once was, now is the time for the Tampa Bay Rays to make this move.