I was going to write a piece today on all the moves that Angel fans want the team to make but have absolutely no chance of happening. It was going to be just a quick run through all the bad and/or unrealistic ideas floating around out there. Then I realized I was just using that as a thinly veiled premise to take those dreams of the Angels trading for David Price and smashing them to a fine powder with a large reality hammer. But when rumor conjurer Nick Cafardo wrote recently that he thought the Halos could have possibly the best offer out there for Price, I decided to drop the premise altogether. Now please excuse me while I go and fetch my hammer.
First and foremost, we don't even know if the Rays are actually going to trade David Price. People are just assuming that they will because they have a history of trading players, specifically pitchers, when they get within two years of free agency. OK, fine. That seems fair enough. But if we are going to make presumptions that one behavior will occur because of what the Rays have done in the past, then we must also assume that the trade they do make with Price will also follow the pattern they have established with those past trades.
Let's take a look at those deals, shall we?
James Shields traded with Wade Davis and Eliot Johnson for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard
Shields got dealt because he was getting expensive and unlikely to stay with the team after his contract ran out. Davis was thrown in because his value was at a peak and it was a chance to dump his salary. The reward for Tampa was Wil Myers, widely considered the best hitting prospect in baseball at the time. They also got two good pitching prospects in Odorizzi and Montgomery. That's a pretty big haul and it is all for players who cost virtually nothing in salary.
Matt Garza traded with Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer
Garza's value was peaking, so, sure enough, the Rays moved him before he started getting expensive as he was a Super Two player entering his second year of arbitration. That trade netted them Archer and Lee who both developed into Top 100 prospects. Again, the Rays cashed out on an increasingly expensive player and brought back prospects. No salary, just prospects. There is a pattern develop here.
Scott Kazmir traded for Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney
Angel fans remember this deal all too well. Kazmir was two and a half season from free agency at the time and, unbeknownst to Tony Reagins, on the verge of physically breaking down. Tampa wisely moved him before his stock plummeted and brought back three prospects while simultaneously unloading Kazmir's salary.
That's three trades of big name pitchers with escalating salaries and the Rays combined in those deals to bring back exactly zero players that were signed to long-term contracts and zero players that were arbitration eligible. This, to put it mildly, is not good news for the Angels.
As Cafardo threw up against the wall, the Angels have the ability to offer a package built around Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo. In 2013, those two are scheduled to earn roughly $15 million depending on what Trumbo earns in his first year arbitration, which should be between $4 million and $5 million. Kendrick is set to earn $9.7 million in 2014 then $9.85 million in 2015 before hitting free agency. So the Rays are going to trade two years of Price for two years of Kendrick and three years of Trumbo? Methinks not, especially when Price should get in arbitration this season. Yep, the notoriously financially constrained Rays would have to take on a bit of salary to make this deal happen. And it only get worse for them in 2015 as Trumbo will get another few million in arbitration raises then. By 2016, he'll probably so expensive that they have to trade him.
That just isn't what the Rays do. They rarely ever deal for established and expensive talent. They trade established and expensive talent away so that they can get pre-arbitration players and reset their contender window. If it is prospects they want, and there is no reason to think that they don't, then Andrew Friedman shouldn't even bother taking Jerry Dipoto's calls. Even if the Halos were to offer up four of their top prospects (Taylor Lindsey, Mark Sappington, C.J. Cron and Kaleb Cowart, for example), that isn't going to get the job done. It is a fine offer, but there are too many other teams with too many better prospects for the Angels to get very far with their offer. And let's not overlook the fact that it would completely cripple the Angels prospect dpeth. Even if you mix in Trumbo, Kendrick or Bourjos with those prospects, it is still not hard to imagine other teams easily trumping that offer just because their prospects aren't good enough. Farm systems, turns out having one is helpful.
One way the Angels could possibly get around the money involved and the prospects that they can't involve would be to offer to pay a large chunk of the salary for Kendrick and Trumbo. That could be amenable to the Rays, though it still may not offer them enough years of Kendrick and Trumbo to make it worth their while. The problem is that Angels can't really afford to do that. From an annual payroll point of view, yes, they can afford it. The complicating issue is the luxury tax implications because the Angels would presumably want to sign price to a long-term contract extension that would surely have an annual average value of over $20 million. To add that to their books without shedding Kendrick and Trumbo's full luxury tax hits just isn't going to work, especially when the Halos finally get around to giving Mike Trout his extension. Frankly, even if they do unload Trumbo and Kendrick, they still would have a very hard time staying under the luxury tax threshold if they get Price and give both him and Trout extensions. The Halos could always just pay the luxury tax, but there is no indication at this point that being annual taxpayers is something Arte Moreno is willing to do.
So, there you have it. The Angels don't have the right pieces to acquire Price nor do they have the financial wiggle room to accommodate his long-term salary demands. Now please stop talking about this or the reality hammer is going to swing in your direction.