In what might be the biggest surprise in baseball in 2014, the Tampa Bay Rays are finally bad.
They haven’t been decimated by injuries, they just cannot field a competitive team in the uber competitive AL East.
Currently, the Rays are 11.5 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in the East. They will be getting calls prior to the July 31 trade deadline, and the Los Angeles Dodgers should be on the other line.
With a seemingly bottomless pocket, the Dodgers will be in on every big-name player available at the deadline. The top prize this year will surely be David Price, and the Dodgers could be interested.
Price was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 19th round of the 2004 draft, but chose to attend Vanderbilt instead. The move worked out for Price, who was selected first overall in 2007 by the Rays and has been one of the top pitchers in baseball since then. The 28-year-old is 6-7 on the season with a 3.63 ERA, but leads baseball with 144 strikeouts. With the struggles of Dodgers starter Dan Haren, the Dodgers could look to finally bring Price to LA.
Imagine a pitching rotation where Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the third and fourth starters, respectively. If this trade were to go down, the Dodgers fifth starter would be Josh Beckett, who has the third lowest ERA in baseball among qualified starters. A five-game playoff series with Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Zack Greinke getting the ball would be nightmarish for opposing teams.
However, the price (you didn’t think I wouldn’t make this pun) would be way too high . The Dodgers have done a great job holding on to top prospects like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Zach Lee and Julio Urias. To acquire Price, it would take at least two of these prospects, plus likely another pitching prospect. Price is a great pitcher and he comes with one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever seen, but the idea of Joc in center and Seager at third in two years is too tempting to give up on.
Other than Price, there is another Ray that should definitely be in Ned Colletti’s mind: Ben Zobrist. Zobrist isn’t a flashy player or a game-changer, but is one of the most solid players in baseball. He’s incredibly versatile, having played every position but pitcher and catcher in his career.
Zobrist provides the Dodgers with much needed infield depth. I’m sure not many Dodger fans want Miguel Rojas and Carlos Triunfel stepping to the plate in the postseason stretch, so infield depth should be second on the Dodgers’ shopping list at the deadline, right behind bullpen help. The switch-hitting utility player could give Dee Gordon days off against lefties and give Hanley Ramirez more rest to keep him fresh for the postseason.
The price for Zobrist would be much less. Tampa recently called up Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome, so their farm is pretty much tapped on pitching prospects. Zobrist could probably be had for Lee and another pitching prospect. With the Dodgers love for drafting high school arms, Lee is a lot more expendable than Joc or Seager.
The Dodgers are pretty stacked at most positions. It will be interesting to see whether the Dodgers look to add small pieces for depth or if they swing for the fences and try to field a super team with potentially the best pitching rotation in baseball history. A guy like Price would almost make the Dodgers an unfair postseason matchup, but starting pitching is not an area of concern for these Dodgers. Instead, they should look to solidify their infield depth by adding a veteran utility guy like Ben Zobrist.