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Rays setting Price for buyers at Meetings

Prized prospects key for clubs looking to acquire left-hander's services

ST. PETERSBURG -- Andrew Friedman's suite will be busy when Major League Baseball's 112th Winter Meetings begin on Monday at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Though the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations is not likely to tip his hand, everybody knows he's holding a royal flush highlighted by a left-handed ace. Because that ace is 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price, Friedman will have the attention of those in the baseball world hoping to change their fortunes in 2014.

Price is available, there is no doubt about that, which is unusual in itself given the fact No. 1 starters are rarely available through trade. However, the Rays dance to a different beat played by a band that must adhere to a strict fiscal responsibility due to payroll constraints. Countering Price's obvious availability is the fact that Tampa Bay doesn't have to trade him.

Price has two seasons to go before he can become a free agent. Trading him now makes sense from the Rays' point of view. Because his value is high, any possible suitors will need to arrive packing the goods. Otherwise, the club will happily open the 2014 season with Price on the bump.

So what can other teams bring that might entice the Rays to part with Price? Good question since Tampa Bay's everyday lineup is close to set sans for the need to find a first baseman since James Loney is a free agent. Chances are, the Rays will sign a free-agent first baseman, particularly since, in theory, they would have extra cash to spend based on the surplus created by Price's departure. If that is the case, the club would be most interested in deals for Price that yield highly-touted prospects.

In recent years the Rays set a precedent by trading Matt Garza and James Shields. Among the players harvested in the trades of the coveted pair of right-handers were Chris Archer, Sam Fuld, Wil Myers, and Jake Odorizzi.

While Price's status remains the sexiest news of the Winter Meetings, Tampa Bay must address other needs as well.

If Loney is not re-signed to play first, the Rays could turn their attention to trade possibilities such as Mitch Moreland, Mark Trumbo, Ike Davis, and Lucas Duda. Or they might look to the free-agent market to consider the likes of Justin Morneau, Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis.

In addition to first base, the Rays were in need of a closer until they found one Tuesday, swinging a three-team trade that brought in Heath Bell from the D-backs, along with catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds. Tampa Bay in turn will send right-handed pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named or cash considerations to Arizona.

The Rays' DH situation likely will be a revolving door of players on a nightly basis based on pitching matchups. But they might be swayed to find an everyday bat to fill the role.

A lot of balls are in the air for the Rays as they head to Disney World. And, as anybody who follows the club well knows, it's seemingly unpredictable with the direction it will take. In addition, Tampa Bay does not feel any pressure to make something happen at the Winter Meetings.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, David Price