12/12/2013 1:11 P.M. ET
Price will eventually be right to deal Rays' ace
Although teams are reluctant to part with young players, star lefty worth the cost
By Phil Rogers / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Hang in there, Andrew Friedman. Your patience is going to pay off
Sooner or later, Jon Daniels, Ned Colletti or Jack Zduriencik is going to make the phone call that you're waiting for -- the same one you got from Dayton Moore this time a year ago.
Except that instead of James Shields, you'll be dealing David Price this time around, which means you have to get a little bit more than the whole lot (Wil Myers) that the Royals gave you for Shields.
A Price mega-trade is going to happen, but not before a lot more gnashing of teeth and general angst on the side that is giving up 20-, 21- and 22-year-olds who have never played a day in the big leagues. This deal would have gone down at the Winter Meetings, on baseball's offseason stage, if this was 2003 or 1993, not 2013.
These days, teams don't give up prospects the way they once did, because those young players carry tremendous value. The expertly run Rays can blame themselves, because by going to the playoffs four times in the past six years with teams that averaged $55 million in payroll, they have done more to change the equation than any organization.
"Big-market owners have started to ask hard questions about why their general managers trade away big league-ready guys for somebody else's big-salary guy," said one former general manager. "The margin between what you get from experienced players and young ones can be razor thin."
The former GM made a comparison between two center fielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, whom the Yankees signed to a seven-year, $153 million contract, and Adam Eaton, whom the White Sox acquired from the D-backs in Tuesday's three-team deal and will unlikely make more than $500,000 this season.
The former GM sees them as similar in many ways, even if Ellsbury's phenomenal 2011 season (.321, 32 homers, 39 stolen bases) earns him admission into the baseball elite. Eaton does not have the same raw speed or power. But Brett Butler, who managed Eaton in the Minors, has compared Eaton to Mike Trout "without the pop."
Could Eaton could give the White Sox a .789 OPS, which is Ellsbury's career mark? That seems within reach.
Arizona gave up the 25-year-old Eaton because D-backs GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are big believers in A.J. Pollock, who hit .269 and played a solid center field as a rookie. He's a budding team leader who meshes well with his teammates.
Eaton and 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs were dealt to get Mark Trumbo from the Angels. That three-team trade has been the biggest this offseason in which prospects were moved to add a proven player, with the only other such trade meriting spirited debate being the Athletics sending former first-round pick Michael Choice to the Rangers for Craig Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom.
Billy Beane obviously believes Gentry will emerge as a more important piece in Oakland than he's been in parts of five seasons with Texas. Either that or the A's simply made the wrong Choice with the 10th pick overall in 2010, ahead of Chris Sale (ouch), Taijuan Walker and Alex Castellanos.
Trades that can be described as tomorrow-for-today were once common in the offseason, but they now seem almost exclusively reserved for July, as clubs dream of quick turnarounds.
Consider the White Sox. They lost 99 games in 2013, which means they'll have the third pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft (ahead of the Cubs!), but general manager Rick Hahn would love nothing more than for the Sox to be nipping at the Tigers' heels as he, executive vice president Ken Williams and scouting director Doug Laumann search for another Sale.
It will take an 18-game improvement for the White Sox to reach .500 next season, but they headed back from the Winter Meetings feeling that an overhauled lineup -- including Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Eaton -- will give them the pulse they had been missing.
Not that long ago, the White Sox were as willing to deal their prospects as any organization. It would appear they have learned their lesson. But like everyone else in baseball, they would think awfully hard about Price if they thought that he would get them into the postseason.
Come to think of it, I'm sure the White Sox are thinking hard about Price as we speak. So will every other organization until the guy who has put together a 71-39 record and a 3.19 ERA while being based in the highly competitive American League East has learned which uniform he'll wear in 2014.
Will the Mariners trade for Price after he said he won't consider an extension to stay in Seattle beyond 2015? Do the Dodgers have enough in their farm system to get him? Would the Rangers part with Jurickson Profar?
There are still a lot more questions than answers, and the value of prospects seems to increase daily, making it tougher and tougher to take "yes" for an answer.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.