Many of the more highly sought after names on this year's free agent and trade markets have already found new homes, but David Price, perhaps the most marquee of this winter's potential acquisitions, is still out there. While ties to the Seattle Mariners have heated up over the past couple days, the market for the 28-year-old southpaw remains wide open as at least eight clubs have been tied to the 2012 Cy Young award winner.
So, where could Price be pitching next year? Let's take a quick look at the eight leading candidates to acquire Price.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers already have the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), and another starter in Zack Greinke who could easily headline a majority of MLB rotations, but it wouldn't hurt to add an arm like Price, right?
As stacked as the Dodgers are at the major league level, they actually have a pretty solid farm system. A potential Price trade would likely require the Dodgers to include at least two from the Dodgers' top quartet of Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Zach Lee, and Julio Urias. Seager especially seems to be a necessary addition in a trade package for Price, as the shortstop and younger brother of Seattle Mariners' third baseman Kyle Seager, has the potential to hit in the middle of the order someday.
Along with two of the aforementioned group, the Rays will probably ask Los Angeles to add at least one arm from their second-tier of pitching prospects which includes Matt Magill, Ross Stripling, and former first round pick Chris Reed. Reliever Paco Rodriguez could also be a consideration.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves made a splash last offseason acquiring Justin Upton, and they could be in line to make another this winter, albeit a long shot. Atlanta already has a solid rotation, but the club has kicked around the idea of trading for Price.
Though lacking a true elite prospect, the Braves have a good amount of depth that could make a Price deal possible. Young bats such as Jordan Schafer, Joey Terdoslavich, Jose Peraza, Christian Bethancourt, and Tommy La Stella could be of interest to Tampa, while the Braves also have an abundance of young pitching, including potential top 50 prospect in baseball Lucas Sims, former first round pick and potential reclamation project Sean Gilmartin, right-handers JR Graham and Mauricio Cabrera, as well as 2013 rookie standout Alex Wood.
With an already stable rotation, and a weary history of blockbuster deals, the Braves may stay out of the Price sweepstakes, but were they to try, they should have no problem putting together a solid package.
San Diego Padres: The Padres' interest is somewhat intriguing as they are probably at least two years away from making any real run at a playoff spot.
However, they certainly have the means, as their stock of young talent ranks among the best in the game. Yonder Alonso could be coveted by Tampa to fill their empty first base position, and the Rays could also think about asking for someone line Yasmani Grandal or Jedd Gyorko.
Prospect-wise, the Padres have some interesting bats such as shortstop Jace Peterson, outfielder Rymer Liriano, and catcher Austin Hedges, although San Diego will most likely be reluctant to part with Hedges as they see him as their catcher of the future, and as one who has seen him in person, his defensive chops are otherworldly.
The Padres' have an incredible amount of depth among pitching prospects. Joe Wieland, Robbie Erlin, Burch Smith, Donn Roach, and Keyvius Sampson are all near big league ready, or have already pitched at the major league level. Zach Eflin and Joe Ross have shown enormous potential, and both Max Fried and Matt Wisler are considered elite pitching prospects by many talent evaluators.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs have made it known that they would like to make a splash this winter, and that could come in the form of David Price. Despite their 81-81 finish last year, Arizona isn't too far away from being a true playoff contender, and Price would certainly help them in their push to catch up with the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks are well-positioned with a stockpile of young talent. On the offensive side of things, Arizona offers potential big league regulars such as Didi Gregorius, Adam Eaton, AJ Pollock, Matt Davidson, Nick Ahmed, and Chris Owings. Davidson in particular could be of interest to the Rays as he projects as a corner infielder with above-average offensive potential. Tampa could look to groom him as their long-term solution at first base.
Like San Diego, Arizona has an enviable amount of young pitchers, including right-hander Archie Bradley, who many deem to be the best pitching prospect in baseball. The Diamondbacks have shown no interest in dealing Bradley, which could complicate a potential deal, however, Arizona could also consider dealing Randall Delgado or Wade Miley, each of whom are relatively young and have already established themselves at the big league level. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Chafin could also be seen as potential targets.
What makes Arizona so interesting is their abundance of talent makes up for a multitude of potential trade packages they could offer the Rays. Arizona may not seem like the type of club to make a run at Price, but right now, they have just a good a chance as anybody.
Seattle Mariners: As I mentioned yesterday, a Mariners' package for Price would have to start with top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, who same argue is even more talented than Bradley.
The Mariners don't have a ton of options to offer the Rays like other clubs do, but Walker and now displaced 23-year-old second baseman Nick Franklin are an excellent start to any deal. Tampa could also look at trying to fix Jesus Montero, or they could take a flier on a toolsy outfielder such as Jabari Henry or Gabriel Guerrero.
As of right now, the Mariners appear to be the frontrunner to land Price, as their ability to offer a pitching prospect of Walker's caliber is unmatched among other candidates, save for Arizona, who is unlikely to part with their top arm.
Los Angeles Angels: Every AL West team save Houston appears to be in the running to acquire Price, however, the Angels' chances appear to be minimal, as they really don't have much young, cost-controlled talent to offer.
The Rays would probably ask the Angels for Mark Trumbo, whom they have inquired about in the past, and Tampa has also shown interest in switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger. Garrett Richards could also make his way into a deal.
Among prospects, the Angels' options are limited as they possess what may be the worst farm system in baseball. Mark Sappington, CJ Cron, Taylor Lindsey, and Kaleb Cowart are the only real prospects the Angels have who could play every-day at the big league level. Cron could especially interest the Rays, as his bat is nearly ready for the majors and he projects as a first baseman long-term.
My guess would be the Angels' best offer would include Trumbo, Richards, Cron, and one or two other A-ball type prospects (possibly Jose Rondon or Cam Bedrosian). Not too sexy, but it could get the job done, although I wouldn't bet on it.
Texas Rangers: The last team on this list is the team who has been linked to Price since his name first emerged in trade rumors over a year ago. The Rangers are a lot like Arizona, in that they have a lot of potential options to offer, which could allow them to land Price.
Most of the pitchers on the Rangers' roster are unlikely to move, and they aren't too deep on the farm pitching-wise. The Rangers recently gave Martin Perez the type of deal Tampa is known to hand out to young players, which could make him very appealing to the Rays were Texas to make him available in a Price deal. Neftali Feliz could also be a possibility, as the Rays may have more patience in developing him as a starter, and he could always fall back to his prior role as a flame-throwing closer. Right-hander Luke Jackson represents the best of Texas' arms in the minors.
The Rangers' system is chalk full of position players, starting with one-time top prospect in all of baseball, Jurickson Profar, who is still just 20, and has a bright future ahead of him. However, with Ian Kinsler out of the picture, Texas may be inclined to make Profar untouchable as they seem to have gone out of their way to find him a starting job.
The Rays currently lack a catcher who seems to fit long-term, and the Rangers could offer to fix that by including prospect Jorge Alfaro, who has enormous raw tools, and if everything clicks, may end up as perennial All-Star. Of course, he is a couple years away, but the Rays can afford to wait, especially considering they just signed the recently acquired Ryan Hanigan to a contract extension.
With Evan Longoria in the fold, the Rays could also look at third base prospect Joey Gallo, who is still plenty raw, put possesses light-tower power. Luis Sardinas and top prospect Rougned Odor both project as future middle of the diamond regulars, with Odor having All-Star potential. Odor especially could fit in nicely at the keystone in Tampa Bay, allowing the Rays to use Ben Zobrist in a multitude of roles.
The cost to acquire Price will certainly be exorbitant, and rightfully so, as he is currently among the best pitchers in the game, and still has two years remaining until he hits free agency. The Rays are reportedly seeking a return along the lines of what they received from the Royals for James Shields last offseason, and that certainly limits the amount of potential suitors, as ESPN's Jayson Stark points out.