It's a slow afternoon here in Cub-land as we await the makeup game against the Rangers, squeezed into this off day in the middle of a homestand. So I thought I'd stir something up by making this post with a somewhat-provocative headline.
Personally, I find it amusing that those who think the Cubs are going to ship a passel of prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for David Price are, for the most part, the same people most on board with the Theo Epstein system rebuild. To me, those seem like contradictory goals in 2013-2014.
It might very well be that the Rays will trade Price. He has been, after all, one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last four seasons, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2012 with a 20-5 W-L record, 2.56 ERA, 1.1 WHIP and other excellent peripherals. Never mind, for the moment, that his 2013 record looks like Edwin Jackson's, only with more home runs allowed. (That's right; in 44⅔ innings so far in 2013, Price has allowed eight home runs, half as many as he gave up in 211 innings last year. Jackson, in 38 innings this year, has given up two dingers.) Price is likely to right his ship and, at the end of the year, put up numbers similar to his previous performance.
Price is making $10 million this year and any team that trades for him is likely going to have to offer him a deal comprising at least five years and well north of $100 million.
On what Cubs planet is this going to happen within the next 12 months? Given the state of disarray in which the 2013 Cubs currently find themselves, it appears that my preseason thoughts were incorrect -- this team isn't likely to be much better than last year's, and it could well sell off parts at the trading deadline, making a Triple-A August and September possible again.
David Price isn't going to solve that problem. In fact, right now the thing that needs the least attention for Theo and Jed Hoyer to fix is starting pitching; Cubs starters (Jackson, for the most part, excepted) have been among the best in the National League this year. Poor offensive production, notably with RISP, and bad bullpen work have sunk this ship. One more starting pitcher -- even one as good as Price -- isn't going to make this work in 2014.
I had hoped to be wrong about this, but it appears the timeline of contention has to be pushed back a year or two or maybe even more, depending on how many of the young players now toiling in A ball actually make it. If the Cubs did want to make a splash in the trade market, perhaps putting together a prospects-for-Giancarlo Stanton deal would be a better idea, presuming Stanton ever stays healthy. Unlike Price, Stanton isn't arb-eligible until next year and could, presumably, be signed to a long-term, team-friendly extension. Price, having already gotten past the arb boundary, is going to be much more expensive.
There's one more thing that those who insist the Rays "will" trade Price forget. Starting in 2014, each team will receive approximately $25 million more in television money per year from the new national TV deals that begin next year. Perhaps the Rays will choose to spend that money and keep Price. Of course, the Cubs will also reap that $25 million, but I'd much rather see that spent on offensive production.
Naturally, I could be wrong about this. You can parse all you want about the "likely" landing spots for Price, but on May 6, 2013, who really knows? Did any of you, a year ago, see James Shields traded to the Royals, and helping anchor their rotation?
Have at it. Remember, this is just one man's opinion. You certainly have yours.