The Indians are among the team scouting Tampa Bay starter David Price "more than normal," according to Rays beat writer Marc Topkin. Other teams mentioned include the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Giants. Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner, is earning $14 million this season, making him easily the low-revenue Rays' highest-paid player, and he'll be even more expensive next year, his final season of arbitration eligibility.
Price's led the league with a 2.56 ERA in 2012, but that rose to 3.33 last season, and is up to 3.81 this year. That might lead you to conclude that he's lost something, and is no longer a great pitcher, but it must be noted that his FIP has been incredibly consistent over that time: 3.05 in 2012, 3.03 in 2013, and 3.02 in 2014. He leads the league with 133 strikeouts, good for a career-best 10.3 per 9 innings, and he's walking only 1.0 batters per 9 innings. Those are excellent figures. He's given up too many home runs, but the other culprit is a .322 BABIP, nearly 40 points above his career figure, and given that his line-drive rate is improved over the last couple years, an inflated BABIP seems to me like bad luck, likely headed for positive regression.
Long story short: He's still a great pitcher.
Obviously I'm not the only one who's figured that out though, so the... price will be high.
I have a hard time believing the Indians will actually land him, in part because he'll likely earn $17-20 million next year, and that seems like more than Tribe ownership would spring for. On the other hand, Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera could both be off the books next year, and they're making a combined $19.8 million this season, so absorbing Price's expected salary wouldn't actually require a massive budget increase (though raises due to other players mean there would still be a notable bump).
The other reason I have a hard time seeing it happen is the cost in players. When Tampa Bay traded James Shields away, they were able to get back Wil Myers, one of the top ten prospects in baseball (pitchers Wade Davis and Jake Odorizzi were also involved in the trade, but Myers for Shields was the meat of it). For the Indians to match that kind of offer would require moving Francisco Lindor, which I can't see happening (nor would I support it happening).
Shields was going to Kansas City for a full two seasons, and had a lower salary, so despite Price being a better pitcher, I don't think the Rays will be able to get quite as valuable a return. They're not going to move him for a handful of B- prospects though, there's going to have to be someone of substantial value involved.
After an awful 6-week slump, Santana has gotten back to being the Tribe's top hitter over the last month, same as he was last season, and he's due only $16 million over the next 2.5 years, and there's a team option for 2018 too. The Rays seem like the kind of team that would value Santana's elite walk-rate, and they would certainly appreciate his affordability.
Frazier is the Tribe's #2 prospect, and was ranked close to #50 in MLB on most major lists prior to this season, a bit higher than Myers was at the same age (19). Frazier is at the same level Myers was to begin that season, but he's not having the same type of success (though he's doing fairly well in the Midwest League for his age). Frazier isn't as valuable a prospect as Myers was at the time of the trade, but he is a valuable prospect, and paired with a solid second piece, Tampa Bay might bite.
I give the possibility of the Indians trading for Price only a 10% chance. The cost, combined with the numerous other suitors, probably means it would take to steep an offer for a team in the Tribe's market, with the Tribe's revenues. It's fun to think about though.
Would you trade Santana for Price? Would you trade Frazier and a secondary piece for Price? Would you trade Lindor for Price?