David Price seems all but gone in Tampa Bay this offseason, and the Nationals have been one of the several teams reportedly interested in his services. As dynamic as a rotation that included Price, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and one of Taylor Jordan, Ross Detwiler and Tanner Roark would be, there still remains the question of what the Nationals would have to give for him.
Anthony Rendon entered last season as MLB.com’s 33-ranked prospect, and topped Nationals Top Prospects lists anywhere you went. He’s two-plus years removed from being considered the best hitting prospect in the 2011 draft, and took the fast-track to the major leagues, debuting on April 21 this past season. He would certainly be considered the feature-piece in the trade, and would provide the Rays with a young, controllable long-term solution to plug in at second base.
With the emergence of Tanner Roark, the likely return of Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren‘s dollars off the books, the Nationals will have plenty of options to fill the final two spots in their rotation, making Taylor Jordan dispensable. However, it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be an interesting piece for the Rays. The 24-year old posted a 3.66 ERA in nine starts in his rookie season, and will be under team control through 2020 including arbitration, giving Tampa Bay a young, controllable (seeing a trend here?) pitcher (and we know Tampa Bay loves their pitching) that is slightly more proven than some of the high-promise arms they may target from other teams. While Jordan wasn’t an incredibly highly-touted prospect prior to making his big-league debut, he’s shown (in a small sample size) that he can get results. For a competing team like Tampa Bay, that should be appealing.
While the Rays would be acquiring Rendon in the deal, Renda (I’m sure there would be some clever headlines if this trade actually happened) is also included because the Rays don’t boast a terribly deep supply of middle infielders. Former first-overall pick Tim Beckham finally bounced back last season at AAA, but figures to be in the big leagues at some point in 2014, fellow first-round pick Jake Hager struggled at High-A last season, and top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee struggled with injuries in 2013. Renda, who hit .294 at A Full Hagerstown last season, would give the Rays a prospect that will take a little more time to develop, but will also bring them a hit-for-average, hustle-mentality second baseman.
Nathan Karns, the oldest player in the Rays’ haul, would further feed Tampa’s deep arsenal of young pitchers. Like Jordan, Karns made his big-league debut in 2013. He didn’t stay very long, logging just 12 total innings before being sent back to the minors, however, his “stuff” is undeniable. With a plus-fastball, a developing changeup and a curveball that can hit 87-88 miles an hour, Karns could potentially become one of the game’s better strikeout pitchers with instruction from the Rays’ seemingly god-like minor-league pitching instructors.
There are very few teams (if any) that manage to get all their young talents big-league action when they are ready for call-ups, which is why they seem to match up well with a player like Matt Skole. At 24 years old, Skole seems like he could potentially be on the same track as fellow Nationals power prospect Chris Marrero, who ended up being outrighted and released late last month. Prior to suffering an injury that cost him most of 2013, Skole had hit .290 and .291 in his two minor league seasons at Low-A and High-A, respectively. The Nationals don’t figure to chance making him their starting first baseman, meaning he’ll likely never be more than a bench player in Washington. But he has shown promise in the minors and in 2013 big-league Spring Training, and could actually have a shot at playing time with the Rays organization.
Two offseasons ago, the Nationals shipped Brad Peacock, AJ Cole, Tommy Milone and Derek Norris to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for dominant young left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Per Baseball America, Peacock, Cole and Norris were the Nationals’ third-, fourth- and ninth-ranked prospects at the time. At the time, Gonzalez was 26, two years younger than Price (28), and was under team control for significantly longer (four seasons). So while he was not quite as accomplished, he had plenty going for him at the time of the trade. While the hype may not be there in the cases of the players on the table for Price, more production is on the table. With a minor-league system filled with highly-touted players, adding some players to the mix that have already produced may be the route the Rays should actually take to create some balance.
The latest news on Price is that the Phillies have reportedly “kicked around” the idea of making a play for Price, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal listed the Cardinals, Rangers, Royals, Nationals, Dodgers, Mariners and Diamondbacks as teams that possess that assets to get Price in an article this past Monday. We’ll continue to monitor the musings around Price as the offseason takes shape.