The Tampa Bay Rays caught some in the baseball community by surprise when they traded ace starting pitcher David Price just before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The surprise came did not come because of the fact that Price was traded. We have all known for a while now that a Price trade was inevitable between now and the end of the 2015 season when he was set to his free agency. The only question was when the Rays would actually execute a deal, and with their recent winning ways few people expected it to be during the season.
There might be an explanation for why the Rays wanted to trade Price now rather than wait until the winter. As Jayson Stark points out, the fact that this off-season’s free agent market will be stacked with starting pitching might have made it tough to maximize Price’s value in a deal at that point.
Rival exec made good point about Price deal: W/ Lester/Scherzer/Shields as FAs, next winter will be tough time to trade an ace for big haul
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) August 1, 2014
As far as the urgency felt by potential trade partners, this makes sense. Teams that felt the heat to get an arm now for the final stretch, like the Detroit Tigers, had no other top-tier target available but Price. This winter there will be any number of options.
What is still interesting, however, is the fact that many people are underwhelmed by what the Rays ultimately got for Price. Could they have gotten the equivalent of Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and prospect Willy Adames in a winter deal?
If that was even a possibility and they could have kept Price for the remainder of 2014, this decision will still be second-guessed in the weeks and months to come.