Cardinals seeking David Price? Let the buyer beware

Posted by Scott Wuerz on June 22, 2014 

Would adding a top starting pitcher be a boost for a team that is scuffling in its effort to make the playoffs?

Sure.

Would adding a top starting pitcher make the St. Louis Cardinals a tougher foe in the playoffs?

Provided they get past the wild-card play-in game, certainly.

But is it in the best interests of the Redbirds to give up a bunch of young talent in order to land Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price?

Despite reports that the Cardinals were one of several teams to be scouting the Rays southpaw this weekend, I'm not so sure about that.

First, it would go against the Cardinals' much-copied and much admired philosophy of remaining competitive by growing their own talent. Sure, St. Louis has too many people in the right field/first base mix and they could possibly have an extra pitcher or two to spare. But who says a deal for Matt Adams and one of their lesser pitching prospects is going to get this sort of deal done.

Teams across baseball think the Redbirds won the talent lottery over the past couple of years. Selling it off would be the equivalent of having somebody give you $250,000 -- and then blowing all the money to have Van Halen play your birthday party. Sure, it's awesome... for a little while. And then you spend the rest of your life feeling stupid because of everything you wasted.

The Birds are hamstrung by the fact that every general manager in the game would love to get his hands on Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez or Trevor Rosenthal. If you were in charge in Tampa wouldn't you hold out for the gems of the St. Louis system in your one chance to grab the golden ring?

The Rays are a team desperately trying to cling to a recent streak of competitiveness, not a club that is just trying to dump some payroll. They want talent -- and a lot of it -- for Price. So the cost is going to be prohibitive. If they were willing to give Price away to a team that would simply take his paycheck off their hands, they could find 20 takers by this afternoon.

If the Cardinals were to trade for Price, there is no guarantee that they'd surge past the Milwaukee Brewers into the playoffs and on to the World Series. As far as I can tell, Price is going to do little to nothing to improve St. Louis' biggest weakness: perking up the weak offense. I don't think it's a wise idea to use all your trading chips while failing to address your biggest need.

The starting pitching has actually been quite good. If the Birds were going to spend a bunch of talent on one thing, I'd prefer it to be a slugger for the middle of the batting order. Giancarlo Stanton would be the dream, although it's unlikely the Miami Marlins are willing to part with him at this point.

The other problem with Price is his, um... price.

He's making $14 million this season and, according to a Tampa Tribune story, the Rays expect that he'll get $17-20 million next year through arbitration.

Tampa has forced Price to go year-to-year because it knew it couldn't afford to ink him to a long-term deal. So he's content at this point to play out the process and hit free agency after 2015. The Tribune thinks he wants seven years and $175 million, similar to Felix Hernandez's contract with Seattle.

Who thinks 1) The Cardinals would be willing to pay that much for a pitcher who would be 37 when that deal is done, and 2) That the Cardinals should pay that much for a pitcher.

Remember, we were told that the only reason the Birds were able to sign both Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina to extensions was because Albert Pujols walked away. Sure, the Redbirds have shed some payroll with the retirement of Chris Carpenter and the free agent departure of Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal and Jake Westbrook. 

But they've added a significant contract for Jhonny Peralta and signed Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig to extensions. If they signed Price to a big contract, I'm not sure if someone else would have to go. But I'm positive the Birds would be at the end of their checkbook. And that's going to make things tough as the youngsters start to climb the ladder of arbitration and free agency.

If the Rays are willing to take Shelby Miller and a minor leaguer for Price, sure, I'd pay that for a year and a half of Price and either let him walk after 2015 or try to trade him at the trade deadline if the Birds aren't competitive next season. But I wouldn't even dream of giving up Wacha, Martinez or Rosenthal for him.

The benefits are sketchy in the short term. I love dominant pitching and it would be awesome to watch Price and Wainwright shut other teams down back-to-back. But if they can't score, what difference will it make? The positives are dubious in the long term when Price will likely have moved to his third team while the young players the Redbirds gave up to get him are hitting their prime.

The last thing I want, as a Cardinals fan, is to watch Wacha turn into a latter day Steve Carlton who collects Cy Young Awards while wearing another team's uniform.

 

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