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Tampa Bay Rays rumors: Is a David Price trade inevitable?

David Price is the top young lefty in the game, but his rising cost could be an issue for the Tampa Bay Rays and baseball insiders see a trade becoming inevitable over the next year.

Hannah Foslien

In his weekly column for ESPN Insider, Buster Olney makes the case that the Rays will trade 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price some time in the next thirteen months. He cites rival executives who believe that the financial constraints the Rays operate under and the possibility of record-setting arbitration winnings for Price will combine to make a trade inevitable.

The Rays are currently the second lowest valued MLB franchise according to Forbes and their Opening Day payroll of $65M was the sixth lowest in baseball. The 27 year old Price led the American League in wins and ERA in 2012, earning himself the Cy Young Award. He avoided arbitration with the Rays last season signing for $4.35M, making him the seventh highest paid player on the club. He is in his second arbitration year this off-season and could end up as the most expensive player on the club, with one projection predicting a $7.8M salary for the lefty next year. Given this rising cost, it would make sense for the cash-strapped Rays to shop Price aggressively.

On the trade market, the cost for David Price would likely be astronomical. He has two years of team control remaining and even with record-setting deals in arbitration, he should be a tremendous value. Zack Greinke, the top free agent pitcher this off-season, may cost up to $25M a year for up to six years on the open market. Since 2009, Price has won more games (63) than Greinke (57) and has a better ERA (3.18 for Price, 3.37 for Greinke). Advanced metrics favor Greinke, thanks to his slightly higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate, but Price is younger and left-handed. As a free-agent, Price would almost certainly command as much or more than Greinke, a price TampaBay could not hope to pay.

For two years of Price, the Rays would likely demand multiple top 100 prospects and/or cost-controlled major leaguers. The Philadelphia Phillies gave up three of their top prospects for just one season of control over Roy Halladay (and then signed him to an extension) and Halladay was six years older than Price at the time of that trade. Whatever the cost might be, a deal for Price would almost certainly be historic in size and scope.