On Monday, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo created some buzz around the Indians by reporting that their scouts had been told to focus on the Tampa Bay farm system. Naturally, Tribe fans jumped to the conclusion that the front office was interested in pursuing Ray’s ace David Price.
The report has already led some, including former Indian and occasional STO analyst Jensen Lewis, to speculate on a deal.
Not shocked CLE has scouts checking out TB farm system. I said way back this offseason Tribe shoulda been aggressive on getting D.Price ..
— Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) July 15, 2014
Lindor wouldn't be involved in any deal for Price tho. You're looking at Santana, Salazar & a PTBNL for DP & prospects
— Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) July 15, 2014
It’s reasonable to assume the Indians have interest in Price, especially since Terry Pluto reported back in December that the team had already talked to Tampa Bay about their ace. But to assume that anything is imminent is taking things a little too far.
For starters, Price is under contract through the 2015 season.That’s going to set the asking price at a level the Indians may simply not be willing to approach.
Just remember what the Indians paid for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 – a player who never approached the level of Price. While the names don’t mean much anymore, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White were a hefty price tag at the time, and one that infuriated many fans when the Tribe parted with the former first-round picks.
Despite Lewis’ claim that a deal won’t include Francisco Lindor, Rays GM Andrew Friedman will absolutely start the discussion there and may end it there as well.
As Edward Guetti of the blog Rays Colored Glasses said: “No other prospect makes sense in a deal that would net David Price. Without Lindor, I see no reason for the Rays to listen at all to the Indians.”
For starters, Santana likely wouldn’t command nearly as much respect on the trade market as Tribe fans might expect. While he’s a valuable piece of the Indians as currently assembled, he’s 28 years old and will be 31 at the time his current contract expires. In other words, what you see is what you get. Even if his best baseball is ahead of him, it’s not going to be substantially greater than what we’ve seen already – which was solid for a catcher, but is only a notch above average for a corner infielder.
And in Tampa, Santana is strictly a first baseman. Evan Longoria has third base locked down, and Santana’s defense is well below average at catcher. Tampa value defense as much, if not more, than any franchise in baseball, which would likely limited Santana to first and DH.
Here’s another issue with Lewis’ proposal. He’s assuming anyone would want Danny Salazar, who is having the worst season of his professional career.
Salazar’s value couldn’t be lower right now, as he’s walking batters at a rate of 4.3 per nine innings down in the minors and has a 4.50 ERA in nine starts in Columbus.
And finally, regardless of who is involved, here’s the major issue with the David Price trade: the Indians can only make the deal if they’re willing to start the rebuilding process over again in 2015.
Even with David Price, the Indians aren’t exactly World Series front runners – especially if they were to part with a key major leaguer such as Santana in the deal. And since they simply can’t afford to re-sign Price, they would need to be prepared to trade him a year from now if they’re out of the playoff hunt.
Imagine July, 2015 rolling around. The Indians have already traded Carlos Santana to the Rays, Justin Masterson is gone because they’re using that money on Price, and they’ve just shipped Price to someone in exchange for prospects. What’s left?
Just two years after their free agent spending spree, the Indians would be stuck with a depleted pitching staff, a 35-year old Nick Swisher and a 33-year-old, injury-prone Michael Bourn, due to make a combined $58M during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
That scenario is a recipe for disaster.
This front office has been making more and more gambles in recent years, so I certainly won’t be shocked if they pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade. But this rumor feels like a stretch.