The St. Louis Cardinals could face more competition from the Milwaukee Brewers in more than just the race for the National League Central title.
According to Fox Sports, the Brewers are also competing with St. Louis in the bidding for Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price.
The Redbirds have repeatedly been linked to Price based on the circumstantial evidence that Tampa Bay wants a huge haul of prospects for the Cy Young Award winner and St. Louis has a highly-touted crop of young talent required for such a trade. But the Cardinals have downplayed the likelihood of a major deal.
A report by the sports network claims Milwaukee has called the Rays to ask what it would take to land Price. But, in addition to the fact that Tampa Bay has crawled back into the race in the American League East, other factors could prevent the Cardinals rivals from being a true player on the trade market.
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First, Milwaukee doesn't have the organizational depth to compete with what St. Louis could offer in a swap -- if the Redbirds chose to try to make a deal for a front end starting pitcher. Second, Milwaukee's payroll increased dramatically in 2014 to $113 million, up $15 million from the previous franchise record spent a year before. While the Brewers, like every other club in baseball, will enjoy increased revenue from Major League Baseball's new national television contract in the coming years, one has to wonder if they could afford another $20 million jump for 2015 when Price is expected to cash in during his last go at arbitration.
Still, it's something to think about for the Cardinals.
Not only do they have to decide if they want to mortgage the future to try to improve their playoff position in 2014. The Birds also have to think about how it would change the dynamic of the division race if the Brewers landed Price.
While it may make them much more formidable in the short term, such a move could be devastating for Milwaukee over the long haul. Assuming the Brewers couldn't afford to pay Price what it would take to sign him to a contract extension, Milwaukee could potentially clear out its already weak farm system and see Price walk away in a year and a half.
Or... Milwaukee could trade for Price this year and use him in 2014, then trade him over the off-season to try to replenish its talent cupboard.
The Brewers can't be completely dismissed on the trade market because of their penchant to trade for high profile pitchers in the past. Their previous trades have landed the likes of CC Sabathia and Zack Grienke.
The Cardinals could just as easily go in a different direction, sparking a Central Division arms race.
Philadelphia's Cole Hamels is a lefty ace who could be had for a similar prospect package as Price. Yet Hamels is signed for the next four seasons with an option for a fifth. He'll make $22.5 million a year, which is admittedly steep. But $90 million for four years is a lot cheaper than the amount of money the Redbirds would have to lay out to get Price to sign an extension. And it's possible Philadelphia could kick in a few million bucks to land a better crop of players in return for Hamels.