ST. PETERSBURG — Ah, yes, David Price’s final start as a Ray (sixth in a series).
A 5-0 loss to Milwaukee at the Trop on Wednesday, seven innings from Price, his first loss in six weeks. So let it be written, so let it be done.
The trade deadline is at 4 this afternoon. Unless someone built a downtown Tampa baseball park while I wasn’t looking, Price’s future remains a story with legs. For the record, he said he expects to play golf today and still be with Tampa Bay come sundown.
“Yes. Absolutely,” Price said.
Frankly, this trade talk is very exhausting. At this point, can they just deal him to Boston on the off chance they put his locker next to Papi’s? Let’s at least have some fun.
If it’s everything they want, if they get the moon and the stars, the Rays do the deal: they trade Price. The club’s Lazarus act, which has brought the Rays from 18 games under .500 to the edge of the playoff conversation, complicates matters, but it shouldn’t stop GM Andrew Friedman ... if the Rays get what they want.
But can they?
Settling for less in exchange for Price could be a nightmare. The list of potential suitors appears to be shrinking. Wednesday, the Cardinals picked up a pitcher (Justin Masterson, from Cleveland) and the Dodgers, loaded with prospects, apparently backed off in their search for starting pitching. No one might want to pay the price for Price.
Look, if I was the Rays and got everything I wanted, I’d have only one more question for the buyer:
“Could you take Escobar, too?”
I don’t think Rays fans will be a factor. What are they going to do, not come to the games?
How could we tell?
Of more concern should be the 24 players who’d be left in the Rays clubhouse if Price goes. What does dealing Price say to this club after it beat its brains out to get back into contention? But I don’t think Friedman would dwell on it. He has Jumpin’ Joe Maddon. As much as Maddon wants Price to be here, as much as he thinks Price will be here (“It takes two to dance, boys.”) his 9=8 chromosome chain makes him believe his guys can make the playoffs no matter what.
“We are in a business,” Maddon said. “We’ve done it before. And we’ve survived.”
It’s still a crucial moment in Rays history. Price is a Cy Young lefty, a jewel. This is a test for a franchise that has always had to think about the future as much as it thinks about the now; 2014 and 2015 have to be balanced against 2016, 2017 and beyond.
This team has fought its way into the race. Price took the lead as the Rays finally began humming, going 6-0 with a 1.31 ERA. He’s the best the Rays have, better, this season at least, than Evan Longoria, who has had a lousy, punchless season and who at this point is truly lucky he has a franchise-friendly contract.
There’s an argument for keeping Price for the rest of this season.
Why disrupt this current roll? Are the Rays really better for the rest of the season without Price?
But there’s an argument the other way. The Rays are never going to give Price one of those $200 million deals. Then throw in the fact that the Rays played like mutts for half a season, even discounting injuries, and you have to talk reality, which right now, at best, looks like a second wild card, a 2,500-mile trip to either Anaheim or Oakland for a one-game playoff.
In other words, you don’t blink if the deal is right.
I think the Rays always have had a set price for Price. If they think they can get as much for Price in the offseason as they can now, they keep him these last two months, though I can’t believe Price will be a Ray next season. Then again, I thought that about this season. And this trade deadline.
Now we wait.