Over the past two offseasons, starting pitching has become a highly sought after commodity. Pitching has generally always been at a premium, but that has been accentuated during this offseason. Look at the contracts commanded by such starters as Tim Hudson and Bartolo Colon, as both pitchers received two year contracts worth north of $10 Million per season, despite approaching 40 years of age. Look at what the Royals gave up last season to acquire James Shields in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. There is no question that the cost of quality starting pitching has increased.
While Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are likely banking on that increased demand to fatten their bank accounts, the Rays may also be looking to stock their farm system once again. Perhaps more than any of the free agents available, the biggest prize on the market may be David Price. Under team control for the next two seasons, Price has been a much more dominant pitcher, and far more consistent, than any other option available.
Yes, the price for Price is likely going to be astronomical. The Rays are thought to be looking for more than they got back from the Royals from Shields, and that package included the Rookie of the Year in Wil Myers, a potential piece for their rotation this year in Jake Odorizzi, among others. After it was thought that the Royals depleted their farm system for Shields, how would they ever be able to afford to trade for a pitcher such as Price?
Apparently, they may be able to do just that. According to Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com, the Royals actually have the pieces in the system where they could acquire Price. Such a trade would likely involve Aldaberto Mondesi and one of Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura, among others. However, the Royals appear not to have done more than to discuss such a move internally, having not made a formal offer to the Rays due to the escalating cost associated with Price.
In a way, the Royals lack of pursuit of David Price may be a good thing. While the Royals appear to be a starter away from having a legitimate shot at a postseason berth, is spending money and/or trading for pitching truly the best way to go?
For the most part, teams that have been successful over the past few years have built their rotations from the minors. Look at the arms that the Rays and the Athletics have been able to develop. The Cardinals seemingly every year find yet another pitcher in their system to help their postseason push. Even the Red Sox are fronted by two pitchers that they developed in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Spending in free agency and trading for pitching can help alleviate a problem in the rotation in the short term, yet that type of strategy typically does not result in long term success. Not only must there be an infusion of younger arms, but having such pitchers can help a team to spend money in other areas of weakness. The Royals have done a great job being able to develop relievers, yet have been unable to have that success translate to the rotation. It is getting to the point where they will need those young starters to perform as well.
David Price is certainly the best arm that may be available. However, to acquire his services, the Royals are likely going to need to part with either Ventura or Zimmer, along with other pieces. Is Price worth the cost? He very well may be for a team that is able to afford to sign him to an extension, but he may not be for the Royals. Price would not only be beyond their budget, but could also affect their ability to sustain a run of success. Unless the Royals could get him to sign an extension and remain in Kansas City for the next four or five years, Price just is not worth the….price.