Everybody Loves Rays: David Price

936px-David_Price_2010_11== Shopping for Price ==

Might the Nick Franklin-to-Rays discussion be part of a mega-deal for David Price?

We don’t know, although the indications are … probably not.

Price is supposedly available, given that his arbitration-eligible price (no pun intended) is already $14M for 2014, and will be even higher next year, after which he hits free agency. So, as with the Cubs with Jeff Samardzija, this is when teams start to look at trading in for a newer model — both to save the salary and to get a return on investment while they can.

And the rumor mill buzzed loudly over the winter about the Rays seeking Mariner uber-prospect Taijuan Walker as the main return in a Price deal, and the M’s supposedly refusing to meet that price (no pun intended).

But the renewed buzz about Franklin being part of Mariner-Ray discussions leads one to ponder if a Price deal is back in the mix. If so … how much is Price worth (no pun intended)?

A: Plenty. You may recall that we did our rankings of the top 10 starters of 2013.  Price didn’t get that high, but was No. 15.

Let’s take a look at his spreadsheet.  I didn’t bother highlighting the 2008 numbers because that was just 14.0 IP and doesn’t really count for anything.

The four “%+” columns are comparisons of those rate stats to the 10-year MLB average, which is set at 100.  PSA and Conv are my “designer” stats explained here.  “Comp” is just a composite of those two, such that a pitcher right at the 10-year MLB average would be 100-100-100.

BF HR%+ BB%+ K%+ XBH%+ PSA+ Conv+ Comp
2008 22 TBR 57 127 109 103 151 133 133 166
2009 23 TBR 557 73 74 89 91 90 98 88
2010 24 TBR 861 127 81 107 110 113 115 129
2011 25 TBR 918 100 111 116 94 130 115 145
2012 26 TBR 836 120 108 120 134 139 132 171
2013 27 TBR 740 110 153 100 92 143 113 156

The really interesting thing — as our net mentor** Jeff “DrDetecto/jemanji” Clarke points out at SeattleSportsInsider.com — is how much Price has morphed since he came up, while remaining one of the game’s best starters. As recently as 2010, Price was well below average in BB-rate — walking 3.4 per 9 IP that year.  Then, just two seasons later, he’s hardly waking a soul — leading the league in BB/9 at 1.3.

There may be tradeoffs from that, but they aren’t readily apparent.  His XBH% did sink a bit below-average in 2013, but it was there before — back when he was walking more. So it’s not like he’s grooving it into the zone and hitters are teeing off.

In other words, Price has become very effective at throwing in the strike zone without getting damaged.  In fact, Pitch f/x has him throwing 54% of pitches in the zone, which is No. 6 among all MLB pitchers.

And if you can do that without getting hit hard, that’s the definition of a very effective pitcher.

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So is Price worth the price (pun intended, I suppose)?

If there’s a trade, the team that gets Price will get him for 2014 and 2015, and potentially compensation if he walks after that.

Balanced against six years of club control of “Walker, Seattle Mariner”? — no, not going to go there.  But it’s worth a lot, and I wouldn’t balk at putting most “regular” prospects into that kind of deal.

At this point, my guess is that the Rays will hold on to Price, and possibly re-assess midseason if they fall out of contention (unlikely).

In the meantime, it’s certainly fun to speculate about Price joining Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in a rotation.  And the $14M is what they could have spent on a Nelson Cruz type, right?

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** It’s like he’s Cano and I’m Smoak!

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