The Tampa Bay Rays are 31-47, twelve games out of first behind the Toronto Blue Jays, and any hopes of improvement are more or less circling the drain and waiting to enter the dark septic tank of July irrelevancy. It is an unfamiliar spot for Tampa to find themselves in, as they have been perennial contenders for the previous six seasons.
In 2007, the last season the Rays finished with a losing record, they finished the year at 66-96, losing thirteen of their last eighteen games. The similarities between this team and that one are notable: a young core of players such as Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Shields, and Carlos Pena were supported by guys like Dioner Navarro, Rocco Baldelli, and Scott Kazmir version 1.0.
The 2014 team has been beset by injuries and ineffectiveness, and the young core that has become the cornerstone of the Rays franchise has been eroded to a degree. Though the team still has a healthy farm system to draw talent from, the core at the major league level is not as strong as it was in 2007 and 2008, or is at least not as healthy as it was then.
One of the ways the team could correct their talent shortfall is, as they have done so well in the past, to move on from some of their veteran players, and they appear to be ready to move on from David Price. As Buster Olney writes:
The Rays aren't actually close to trading Price, according to sources. But the climate is right, given Price's impending free agency after 2015 and Tampa Bay's shockingly poor play this season.
...the Rays would have to go 60-24 the rest of the season in order to achieve 91 wins, and given the loss of Matt Moore and the struggles of the rotation (19th in ERA), Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and others, there is little reason to believe Tampa Bay is poised for that kind of turnaround.
If the Rays were interested in getting a gross of players back for their ace, now would appear to be the moment. Deals like this often happen over the course of several weeks, and the Rays now appear to be actively looking for a partner to trade with.
David Price has done his part, throwing 115.2 innings on the year with a 10.35 K/9 rate, along with having issued just thirteen walks this season. He is on pace to crack 200 innings for the fourth time in the last five seasons. He is everything that teams look for in number one starters.
The most likely comparison for what the Rays may be able to return would be the Greinke deal of the 2010 off-season. The Royals shopped Greinke, who had two full seasons of team control left, and returned Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress, all three of whom are starters in the major leagues.
Price doesn't have a season as good as Greinke's on his resume, and comes with a half-year less in team control, so he might not return two Gold Glove candidates and a dependable starting pitcher, but he will certainly get into the neighborhood, if a team is desperate enough for him.