COMMENTARY | The upcoming offseason is a time for rumors, speculation and wishful thinking as teams prepare their rosters for the following season.
The Red Sox may still be playing in the 2013 postseason, but it is never too early to plan for the future. You can bet the front office has already put a great deal of thought in planning the upcoming winter months.
The 28-year-old left-handed Price would be a perfect target. Not only is the first overall pick in the 2007 draft one of the best pitchers in baseball but it's also not often teams have an opportunity to pry someone of his caliber of talent loose.
In six years with the Tampa Bay Rays, Price has gone a combined 71-39 with a 3.19 ERA.
His best season came in 2012 when he was 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts, winning the American League Cy Young Award.
He was 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts this year, but missed time with injury. His league-leading 1.3 walks per nine innings demonstrated his excellent control.
Although Price was a major reason the Rays made the playoffs, it's clear his long-term future does not lie with the team.
Following the Rays' ouster from the playoffs at the hands of the Red Sox, Price explained to the Tampa Bay Times Marc Topkins why he expects to be moved. "If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded," he said. "That's kind of the way it's happened with this organization when pitchers kind of get to this period in their career. We've seen it happen a couple of times already."
Price was referring to Matt Garza and James Shields, who were successful pitchers with the Rays before being traded over the past several seasons once their salaries rose.
Price won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, but, according to Topkins, should see his 2014 salary rise to the neighborhood of $13 million through arbitration. While in baseball terms that would still make him a bargain, it would also represent a significant portion of the notoriously frugal Rays' payroll, which was just $57 million this season.
After Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and their bulky contracts were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, the Red Sox changed the way they did business. They acquired a number of players in the offseason with modest contracts that didn't exceed three years in length. Since the team is still playing, that strategy has obviously paid off. However, there are always exceptions, and one should be made for Price.
Outside of Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw (who is a near lock to return to Los Angeles), Price is the only true ace expected to hit the market in the near future.
The Red Sox already have six starting pitchers locked into contracts or under team control next year in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster. However, none of them are better than Price.
The problem is never having too much good pitching; it's always not having enough.
Acquiring Price would be a pricey move. While he'd be under team control for two more seasons, the only way making a deal makes sense is having the intention to ink him to a long-term contract. That will take money and prospects -- plenty of each.
There are some who believe Price stands a good chance of reaching the $200 million mark when he signs his multi-year deal. Fortunately, the Red Sox have extraordinarily deep pockets and could absorb a major expenditure.
Additionally, Boston has one of the best player development systems in the game. Baseball America's Jim Callis ranked it as fifth-best before the start of the season. That should only rise after a strong 2013 draft. Although dipping in for pieces to use in a trade would hurt, the incredible depth the organization has built makes such a scenario feasible.
Prospects are the gold standard in baseball. It's tough to give up young players who could turn out to be eventual stars. However, there is no such thing as a can't-miss young player, and Price is already an established commodity.
It would be unusual for teams from the same division to trade, but each side has what the other needs and covets. That alone can sometimes be enough to get a deal done.
It may be a wild idea for the Red Sox to consider making a move for Price, but, if you think about it, is it really all that crazy?
In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.
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