- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
The top-of-the-rotation pitcher most likely to be traded between now and the trade deadline is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Lee are also in the conversation, but the Cubs still could re-sign Samardzija, and a Lee trade would require a return to full health for him and a willingness to be traded to specific teams. The Rays don't have either obstacle with Price.
The Rays also know the best time to trade Price is now; the return won't be as high this offseason or next July as it will be over the next six weeks. So it's only matter of time before he's dealt to the highest bidder.
The most interesting aspect of a potential deal is that there aren't as many contending teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter as in the past. For example, in the National League, teams such as the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals all have enough pitching at the top that they have no reason to empty their farm system to acquire Price. In fact, I would argue the Braves (who, by the way, have the best starting pitcher ERA in the league) are the only NL team likely to inquire about Price.
In the American League, two of the top teams -- Oakland and Detroit -- also probably won't be bidding, though I'd never put anything past A's GM Billy Beane, based on his track record.
The Rays could get a large package for Price -- as many as four or five prospects -- but it's more likely they'll shoot for quality over quantity and end up with a two-for-one or three-for-one deal, with the possibility of more players being thrown in by either side. For the purpose of this exercise, I'll try to find the best two-for-one or three-for-one deals that could be offered for Price.
Here are the five teams I view most likely to trade for Price, along with potential deals involving each club:
The Angels appear to be the favorite to win the American League's first wild-card berth, and they actually have a legitimate shot of overtaking the Oakland A's and winning the West. A deal for Price would certainly seal the deal, and the Angels have enough to make it work. They might not have the young starting pitching the Rays would ideally seek, but they do have the bats to get it done. C.J. Cron would have to be the central piece in the deal, and given his potential to develop into a 30-homer, middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he'd be a perfect fit for the Rays, who are trying to build the middle of their lineup to complement Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Sure, the Rays have James Loney signed for two more years, but the Rays could have Cron and Loney share the first base and DH slots until Loney's deal is up, or they could trade Loney this offseason, given his affordable contract.