Thursday, December 12, 2013

David Price to the Dodgers: Talking myself into the idea of acquiring him

All this winter, I've been pining for Masahiro Tanaka. He's the guy I really want the Dodgers to sign. Yet here we are on Dec. 12, and Tanaka has yet to be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

It's not entire the NPB's fault, as it has been a long road negotiating a new posting system with MLB. But the president of the league doesn't want the Golden Eagles to post Tanaka and the new $20 million maximum bid might not be enough to satisfy them.

At this rate, I'm about ready to move on from Tanaka (though, the Diamondbacks' reported interest makes me reconsider) and onto Rays' ace David Price.

If you've ever read this blog, you know I'm a prospect hoarder. I'm not one for advocating for gutting the farm system -- and that wouldn't need to happen here. But, if the Dodgers (and myself) want the team to acquire Price, they'll have to give up some good prospects. But more on that later.

After the Mariners signed Robinson Cano on Friday, I was all but certain Price would end up in Seattle.
But, the Mariners seem really resistant to trading Taijuan Walker (hard to blame them), so they're seemingly out on Price. The Diamondbacks would likely have to include Archie Bradley, something a team with a thin farm system might be hesitant to do. The Rangers don't appear to be all that interested, either.

That basically leaves the Dodgers.While the Rays don't have to trade Price right now, it seems if they want to  move him before the start of the season, it's going to be to LA.

Daniel Brim had an excellent post on why the Dodgers should steer clear of Price. It give me pause, but I'm not as concerned as he is with Price's performance going forward.

"The above graph from Brooks Baseball shows Price’s pitch velocity month-by-month since 2010. Other than some minor differences (Price phased out his slider completely after 2010), the only year that sticks out is 2013. After averaging 96.55mph in 2012, his fastball velocity dropped all the way to 94.27mph this year. His sinker (which he throws more than any other pitch) dropped from 96.23mph to 94.24mph. While the velocity came back a little bit after returning from the DL, it never really got back up to his career levels and began to tail off again at the end of the year."
While the decreased velocity is concerning (really, look at that top-right corner -- it's a little scary), Price still throws his fastball with the 11th-highest velocity of any pitcher in baseball. Whether he suffered from dead arm, had a mechanical flaw or just flat-out threw his fastball slower in 2013 remains to be seen. But Price has never been a big-time strikeout pitcher.

His career-high in strikeouts per nine innings is 8.7, established in 2011 and 2012. Prior to 2013, it was 8.3 per nine. In 2013, it was 7.3 -- still a respectable number, but obviously not ideal.

Coupled with Price's decreased velocity and decreased whiff rate came a reduced walk rate. While he's never been one to walk a ton of hitters, he took it to a new level in 2013. From 2008-12, he walked 3.0 batters per nine innings. By comparison, Clayton Kershaw walked 3.3 per nine in that same time. Price's walk rate was 1.3 per nine innings in 2013. That's Cliff Lee territory.

Price's groundball rate decreased from 2012 (53.1 percent) to 2013 (44.9), but his HR/FB rate also fell (10.5 to 8.6).

Predictably, Price became a little more hittable in 2013. His hits per nine inning increased by more than one, but his WHIP dropped by .01 points. If the object of pitching is to limit the number of baserunners, Price was better at that in 2013 than he was in 2012.

Brim makes another cogent point -- something I hope A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz can work on in 2014.
"Then there’s the factors that are beyond Price’s control. This Sky Kalkman piece goes into some of these factors. While the Dodger Stadium and Tropicana field are similarly pitcher-friendly, the defensive differences between the Dodgers and Rays are interesting. The Dodgers have a higher Defensive Runs Saved, while the Rays have a higher team Ultimate Zone Rating. However, the Dodgers do not save as many runs by using defensive shifts as the Rays do (source).

Additionally, he notes that the Rays have a pretty significant advantage in pitch framing. The Rays’ two primary catchers last year were Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton. According to (the only place where I could find a readily available source of framing statistics), Jose Molina had 18.1 framing runs above average and Jose Lobaton had 0.3 framing runs above average in 2013. The Dodgers’ primary catchers, A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz, had -7.4 and -3.9 framing runs above average, respectively. Research into the value of pitch framing is still relatively new, and the magnitude of the impact is still not fully known. But David Price gained some statistical advantage from Jose Molina’s pitch framing that the Dodgers’ backstops cannot match."
If Price benefited from framing that much, then it could be an issue for the Dodgers or whichever team acquires him -- if they don't have a catcher who excels at framing.

So, what would it take to acquire the one of the best pitchers in baseball? A lot.

In a matchup of Andrew Friedman (Rays' GM) and Colletti, the easy money is on Friedman. However, Colletti (and co.) has proved himself somewhat capable since Guggenheim and guys took over.

First, I'd remove Corey Seager from the table. Period. Not because he's too young to sit at the adult's table, but because I'm not ready to part ways with him. If the Dodgers had another third baseman or shortstop -- in the majors or minors -- I'd be much more willing to part with him. The fact is, third base has been a massive black hole since the days of Ron Cey (despite some nice tenures from Adrian Beltre and Casey Blake). Seager is the team's future at the position -- a position that's becoming harder and harder to fill, it seems. I mean, Juan Uribe is the best free agent third baseman on the market. That really says something.

I'd also be hesitant to include Julio Urias in the deal if for no other reason that we've yet to see enough of the 17-year-old. He could be the next Johan Santana or the next Brien Taylor. Moving him would be a tough decision for the Dodgers to make.

Joc Pederson would be the headliner for me. He was ranked as the Dodgers' top prospect by Baseball America and is a Top 30-40 prospect in baseball. Yes, the Rays got Wil Myers for James Shields last year, but what happened last year shouldn't have much bearing on Price-to-LA trade talks. It's not the Dodgers' fault the Royals overpaid a bit.

Zach Lee would also head Tampa's way, giving the Rays a quality starter who's close to the majors. Lee is underrated by most (in my eyes) and could reach the Tampa rotation in 2014. I'd also throw in Chris Reed because, despite a solid season in Double-A, I'm still not terribly high on the former first-rounder from Stanford.

Finally, I'd include Jose Dominguez. The Rays might want Chris Withrow, but I'd feel more comfortable sending Dominguez, whose fastball is second to only Bruce Rondon's in the majors.

To Tampa Bay: Pederson, Lee, Reed, Dominguez
To LA: Price
Note: That's three Top-8 prospects, plus one just on the outside. Not a bad haul for Tampa.

Alternative proposals
To Tampa Bay: Urias, Pederson, Reed, Dominguez
To Los Angeles: Price, Taylor Guerrieri
Note: I'm aware he's out for 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and he's facing a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, but he still has a ton of talent and I liked him in the 2011 draft.

To Tampa Bay: Nick Franklin, Urias, Reed, Dominguez
To Los Angeles: Price
Note: Franklin would come over from Seattle in an Andre Ethier trade.

To Tampa Bay: Urias, Lee, Reed
To Los Angeles: Price


I don't know if I'm even in the ballpark (probably not), but I think Price could be had without having to give up both Seager and Urias (or either of them). If they absolutely must include one of them, I'd easily send Urias before Seager. Easily.

Price is really good, but he's not on the level of a Kershaw. While their situations are a little different, I'd expect much more in a Kershaw trade than a Price trade.

And before you say "That's too much to give up for Price," just remember -- the Dodger rotation would look like this:

Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
David Price
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Dan Haren

Best. In. Baseball. I'd rather have Tanaka because he wouldn't cost anything in trade, but Price would be a fantastic consolation prize.

Photo credit: Wknight94, Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. I really doubt Price can be had w/o Seager. I'm sure it'd have to be Seager, Pederson AND Lee/Urias

    - tqt