It was certainly more of a coincidence than a fact finding mission. But the internet is still buzzing Monday morning after potential St. Louis Cardinals trade targets David Price and Evan Longoria tweeted that they sat in the stands at Busch Stadium Sunday night and had what can best be described as a big ol' time.
Neither player no-trade protection in their contract. So, if there is any truth to the rumors, the Rays top pitcher and top hitter are being targeted by the Redbirds, the visit will have little or no impact on whether or not a deal will be done. Still, it's pretty excellent promotion for the Cardinals to those players -- and to other players around the big leagues.
Price and Longoria had to be impressed by what they saw. An enthusiastic sell out crowd of 45,255 (slightly better than the Cardinals average crowd of 43,391, good for second in attendance in MLB) cheered for the home team all night. That's nearly triple the average crowd at the Ray's home ballpark, 16,901. The Cardinals eventually lost. But they put up a good fight against a guy who is generally considered to be the best pitcher in baseball right now. Price and Longoria were reminded by the scoreboard that St. Louis is in first place in the National League Central. And they probably couldn't miss the 11 pennants atop the scoreboard that are reminders of Cardinals World Series victories.
ESPN's Buster Olney added Longoria to the Cardinals trade rumor mill with a tweet that the team was having internal discussions about trying to acquire him. But he tempered the statement by saying there is no indication whatsoever that the Redbirds have shared their potential interest with Tampa.
Although folks seem to have gleefully read right past that second part, it's pretty significant. The Cardinals front office staff routinely has internal discussions about dozens of players. And almost all of the talks never progress past the "wouldn't it be nice if..." stage.
As I said a month ago, I would be shocked if that sort of a trade was even possible.
First, it would represent that Cardinals completely bailing on their organizational philosophy of building from within. I would imagine that acquiring the two most prominent faces on the Rays roster would cost St. Louis at least five significant prospects or players. That's a ton of cost controlled talent to give up.
Speaking of costs, the Redbirds would have to pick up Longoria's $95 million contract while trying to sign Price to a contract extension in the neighborhood of $150 million. That would add somewhere between $33-$35 million to the payroll for next season, vaulting the Cardinals from the $110 million range to the $140 million range. That's a big jump.
Finally, while Tampa would gain a bounty of young players, it would be a tough sell to try to convince the fan base that such a deal wasn't a fire sale. Longoria's contract seemed to signal that the Rays would at least invest reasonable amounts of money in the product on the field. Trading away that contract in it's first year would sure seem like a punt. I'm not sure that's what's best for a franchise that's trying to convince local taxpayers to build them a new ballpark.
Tampa is likely to part with Price. But trading Longoria would seem to be a desperation move.