LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had just settled into his seat Monday during his turn in front of the media at baseball's winter meetings when he was asked about — what else? — the prospect of David Price being traded.
“What I've heard is, obviously, what everybody else is hearing. There is a lot of conjecture and talk about it,” Maddon said. “When you lose a player of that magnitude, not just the fact that he's such a good pitcher, but this guy ... matters a lot to the clubhouse and to the team.
“Having said all those things, and again, this is how we have to operate within our little world, so if it were to happen, it's one of those that's almost the word 'devastating' in a sense, but we have to recover from those kind of moments if it does actually occur.”
And how would the Rays recover?
Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations, indicated he wouldn't sign a free-agent starter for a spot in the rotation as he had last season with Roberto Hernandez.
If Price is traded this offseason, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Archer move up, creating an opening for Jake Odorizzi.
“I like the five (starters) that we have, and we really like Odorizzi a lot,” Friedman said, including Price among the five. “I don't know yet how things are going to play out, but we feel like with what Jake did last year, both in Triple-A and the experience he got at the major-league level that he's deserving of a chance to pitch at the major leagues.”
Of course, the Rays could receive a major league-ready pitcher or one who is close to the big leagues in a Price trade. Odorizzi joined the team in that fashion last December when he came over from Kansas City with Wil Myers in the James Shields trade.
Odorizzi was 0-1 with a .3.94 ERA in seven games/four starts last season with the Rays.
Seattle is still the front-runner to land Price, according to the talk at the meetings. Texas, Pittsburgh, Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers are also rumored to be in the mix.
Price has made 147 big-league starts. Hellickson is next with 95. He's followed by Moore (59) and Cobb (54). The Rays would miss Price's experience, not to mention his talent. That's a jolt to a rotation that, for all its success, is relatively young.
The Rays had Price when Shields was traded.
“I know last year that (Price) was there to buffer losing James,” Maddon said. “I'd say Cobb's the next guy in line to do something like that. You can make the argument for Matty, but I think Alex has that kind of personality that he'd be the guy that would be the transitional guy. I think he can.”
Hernandez was brought in to help pick up the innings lost when Shields was dealt to the Royals. It doesn't appear the Rays will try that route again.
“It's got to be the right guy,” Maddon said. “We tried that last year with different degrees of success. I would bet that if in fact David were not here, then the pressure to analyze it more closely would be there. Andrew has talked about it, but we're not anywhere near that right now.”
Maddon said he talked with free-agent first baseman James Loney recently and said Loney was noncommittal about returning. “I think he's in a position right now to probably go after the best contract he's every going to get,” Maddon said. “So do I blame him? No. Do I want him back? Yes.” It's been reported Loney is seeking a three-year deal worth between $27 million and $30 million. ... Maddon said second baseman Ben Zobrist is not an option at first base. ... While Friedman said getting a left-handed hitting first baseman would help the Rays' heavy right-handed lineup, Friedman said he's really looking for a first baseman who can hit right-handed pitching. ... Friedman said he spent more time Monday talking trades with general managers than agents about free agents. ... Maddon said catcher Ryan Hanigan will get the bulk of the time behind home plate. “Hanigan came here to catch,” Maddon said. ... The Rays are interested in re-signing right-hander Jamey Wright, who is reportedly deciding between staying with Tampa Bay or returning to the Dodgers.