Why in the world do the Rays want to trade David Price? He might be the best pitcher in baseball and the team controls him for the next two seasons. If they keep him, they can win the World Series.
-- Ray T., Orlando, Fla.
First, the Rays have never publicly stated they intend to trade Price. However, reading between the lines and considering the way the team has always done business, it's a good bet the club is fielding offers for the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner. While Tampa Bay is likely listening to offers for Price, I don't believe the club feels any pressure to trade him unless it gets its socks knocked off by an offer.
Now, why would the Rays even consider trading Price when they control him for two more years? Simply stated, they wouldn't likely be able to sign Price to a long-term deal once he became a free agent. So they must begin entertaining offers for him in order to get the most they can for him.
That might mean waiting to trade Price until the midway point of the 2014 season or even after the season. But one thing is for sure: The team does not want to get into a situation like the one the Indians experienced while trading CC Sabathia to Milwaukee on July 7, 2008. The clock was winding down for Sabathia to become a free agent after the 2008 season, and the Indians received very little in return for his services.
Why don't the Rays just keep Price for the next two years, pay him his $14 million to $15 million a year, win a couple of World Series titles, then wish him the best? I realize that $30 million is a lot of money in the real world, but it's not that much relative to what is being paid for a top-notch starter.
-- Ben H., St. Petersburg
Those are all good points. And that is an option for the team. The Rays could ride the southpaw for two more seasons, then make Price a qualifying offer before he becomes a free agent and breaks the bank. If that happened, Tampa Bay would receive two years with Price at the top of the rotation, and the team would also get a compensation pick in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
I also think it's interesting that no team has offered up some of its top prospects for Price. Teams have a chance to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game for two years at approximately $30 million. Even if the Rays want an organization's top prospects, they are still prospects and not proven Major Leaguers. And consider what the market is paying for pitching right now. Scott Feldman went 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA for the Cubs and Orioles last season, then signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Astros. Enough said.
Ryan Hanigan could be the catcher the Rays have been waiting for a long time. But it doesn't seem to make sense when you consider that the team now has three catchers with Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton. What gives?
-- Pete J., Tampa, Fla.
Hanigan does appear to be the guy the Rays have wanted at catcher for some time, but as you pointed out, the club now has three catchers after re-signing Molina to a two-year deal. I believe Hanigan will get most of the games behind the plate this season, which means either Lobaton or Molina will be the backup -- unless either is traded. Depending on what other teams are looking for, both Molina and Lobaton have value. I would expect one of the pair to be traded, but I don't believe there is any urgency to pull the trigger on a deal.
Going to Spring Training with three catchers would be a luxury. That way, the team would have the security of having an extra catcher should one of the three get injured. Or Tampa Bay can trade one to a team that suddenly finds itself in trouble at catcher -- a situation that often occurs due to the physical demands of the position.
The Rays seemed to break precedent in re-signing James Loney. Do you think he is special enough to be getting a three-year deal?
-- Brad M., Tampa, Fla.
Based on what the Rays have found on the free-agent market in recent years, I think they simply realized that the guy they wanted most was the guy they had in 2013. Loney gives Tampa Bay Gold Glove defense, quality at-bats and he hits from the left side, which fits in nicely for a predominantly right-handed lineup.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.