As you may know, the MLB Winter Meetings are coming up this week, and that means two things:
1) Rumors will circle about every team being connected to every player. Remember that one time the Indians were linked to Prince Fielder? Can you imagine how that would have gone down? How many locations would Melt have now if they had Prince Fielder in town (At least a dozen, by my estimations)?
2) Almost none of those rumors will come to fruition.
With those two thoughts in mind, please take everything I say in this article with a gigantic grain of salt.
Anyway, as we head into the Winter Meetings, one of the big names on the docket is Tampa Bay starter David Price, winner of the 2012 Cy Young Award. Price is under organizational control for two full seasons, so he is near the apex of his value to a prospective team. More importantly, the 2014-2015 window coincides nicely with the Indians current contention window. Price would instantly become the best Indians pitcher since CC Sabathia and/or Cliff Lee won back to back Cy Young Awards in 2007 and 2008, and the Indians would instantly become real challengers to Detroit in the division (though it’s entirely possible the Tigers are narrowing that gap all on their own).
But do the Indians have the assets required to pull of that deal without crippling their contention window? Honestly, they might.
The Rays started Yunel Escobar at shortstop throughout 2013, where he posted a .698 OPS and merely average defense. The Rays would certainly covet Francisco Lindor, who is currently one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
I know, I know, nearly everyone reading this just clenched their muscles in anger. No! We can’t give up Lindor! He’s our sacred cow! One of the best!
Yeah, well, that may be true, but it’s a moot point, as Lindor would not be enough to get Price. The Rays got Wil Myers for James Shields, and will certainly be seeking a lot more for the Cy Young winner with two years of organizational control. If the Indians were determined to get Price, they would likely have to offer up a package centered around Lindor and… Danny Salazar.
Wait! Put down your pitchforks, and hear me out. I love Salazar, I’m on the record saying he’s my favorite pitching prospect in the organization since Cliff Lee, and I think he’s got a really high ceiling. I even think the Rays might agree with me and covet Salazar more than they covet Lindor. Premium pitching is hard to come by, and Salazar has all the potential in the world to evolve into another David Price. But you have to remember the key word there: potential.
It’s not likely, but Salazar also has the potential for a lot of not so good things to happen: maybe he blows out his arm and needs Tommy John surgery (not altogether unlikely, despite his smooth delivery), maybe he never adds some movement to his flat fastball (at some point, the home run Delmon Young hit in the Wild Card game is going to come back down to Earth. I think.), and maybe he just doesn’t have the stamina to pitch 7-8-9 innings on a regular basis. We think Salazar will be great, but we don’t know for sure. He’s an unproven commodity.
The same things can be said about Lindor. What if his back injury, which kept him sidelined a lot near the end of 2013, is a chronic issue? What if he never hits enough to justify his high prospect status? What if he’s another name for the Indians’ AAAA All-Stars (with LaPorta and Marte)? We don’t think this is the fate for Lindor, but we don’t know. Again, he’s an unproven commodity.
David Price is a proven commodity. He had a 3.33 ERA in 2013, and that represented a down year for the Rays ace. That was roughly the same as Ubaldo Jimenez (3.30 ERA), and Ubaldo was pitching out of his mind. For a team with a contention window that extends from RIGHT NOW to the RELATIVELY NEAR FUTURE, adding Price without taking much away from the current roster would be a real game changer.
Is a package centered around Salazar and Lindor enough to get Price? Honestly, I don’t even know that. The Rays have every right to seek a king’s ransom for Price, and Salazar/Lindor will not be the best package they could be offered.
But if I were Chris Antonetti, I think I’d pencil in a rotation that looked like this:
1. David Price
2. Justin Masterson
3. Corey Kluber
4. Zach McAllister
5. TO BE DETERMINED
and I’d seriously consider kicking the tires on a franchise- (and career-) defining trade.
What do YOU think? Do you think I’m crazy? Do you think it’s too much to give up? Comment below and share your thoughts.