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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
Rays

Rays Beat: Price trade keeps other pieces in place

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— It takes two to dance. That's what Rays manager Joe Maddon said on the eve of the trade deadline, the eve of the day the club traded David Price.

Maddon was slightly off. It actually took three teams to dance for executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to move the best pitcher in franchise history.

The haul, by some standards, was not spectacular.

They did not get the Tigers' top pitching prospect.

They did not get the Mariners' best prospect.

Instead, they landed Drew Smyly, the Tigers' fifth starter, and infielder Nick Franklin, who was Seattle's No. 3 prospect in 2012.

They also picked up 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames from the Tigers, who has impressed everyone who has seen him play.

Turn back the clock to 2012 when Smyly was the Tigers' No. 3 prospect and Franklin was still near the top of the Mariners' minor-league studs and, hey, great trade.

Instead, the Rays have a major-league starter to replace Price and a switch-hitting middle infielder with some pop from the left side who can be part of the everyday picture in 2015.

It's not the armful of prospects Friedman received in return for Matt Garza and James Shields/Wade Davis. There is a feeling in the industry that those days are over, that GMs would rather have young major-league players with upside and years of team control over speculating on prospects.

Some of the kids hit. Some miss.

Could Friedman have received more for Price had he traded him last offseason? Possibly. But Friedman felt he was putting together a team that was going to be good enough to compete not only for a playoff spot, but also for a deep postseason run — possibly another run at a World Series title.

While the Rays always feel they will play meaningful games in September, they felt this squad was much better than the ones in recent years. They felt this edition was capable of playing all-important games in late October. That's why Price was not traded last winter.

Also, Friedman did not receive the package he couldn't refuse.

Then came the sorry start to the season and the run that brought the Rays back from the dead.

But they were still a sub-.500 team at the trade deadline. And while Price was never better than that six-game stretch from late June to late July, the Rays didn't really gain much ground in the AL East or in the wild-card race.

And keep this in mind: Price likely will make $20 million through arbitration next season. How many teams can afford that contract? Maybe 20 percent. And of those 20 percent, how many have the need for Price? And how many can come up with the compensation package?

What if Friedman couldn't move Price this winter? With Evan Longoria due $11 million, the Rays would have to shed some salary. That means trading off key pieces from this year's squad. Who? Ben Zobrist? James Loney?

That's when the window begins to close and playing meaningful games in September goes away.

So they move Price and add Smyly, a young pitcher who they expect to develop just as they expect the rest of the young rotation to develop.

And they add Franklin, who can add to the team's power from the left side.

And they add a stud minor-league shortstop who has a lot of upside.

It came at a steep price — David Price, whose value went beyond what he did on the mound every fifth day.

It wasn't a popular move. Friedman didn't expect it to be.

It wasn't an easy move to make, either.

But it was one he felt he had to do to keep the window from closing.

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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