Jun 9, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) throws a pitch during the sixth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field. Seattle Mariners defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Wroundtable 3.5: Trade for Price or Samardzija?

Should the Indians Attempt to Acquire An Ace at the Trade Deadline?

Hey readers, after a short hiatus, the Weekly Wroundtable segment is back with a bang.  This week’s topic is as follows…

Assuming the Indians are buyers, who would you rather trade for at the deadline, David Price or Jeff Samardzija?  What would you be willing to give up in order to acquire the pitcher you chose?

Here are the answers from our panel of writers, along with guests from Burning River Baseball and It’s Pronounced Lajaway.

Evan Vogel (Wahoo’s on First)

I’d much rather have David Price than Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija is going to make $10 million or more through arbitration next year, and while he has solid stuff and has pitched for a horrible team, the results still aren’t worth the investment. Price has a Cy Young and has led his team to not only the playoffs, but to a World Series, even if it was as a reliever in his rookie season. While Price could earn $18-20 million through arbitration next year, he is the more known commodity, and the Indians could use another elite arm to team with Corey Kluber if and when Justin Masterson leaves via free agency (since he isn’t elite to begin with).

As far as what I’d give up…it may sound stupid, but the package would include Clint Frazier as the centerpiece, with Danny Salazar as the secondary piece to make the deal intriguing to the Rays, and, possibly, a lower level prospect with a high ceiling, like a Dorssys Paulino. While Tampa Bay has to worry about the costs involved on their end, they aren’t going to just give away one of the top pitchers in baseball. The Indians would have to pay dearly to make this happen, but with the Masterson and Cabrera contracts coming off of the books, the Indians may have the payroll necessary to make a pricey, one-year deal for Price work.
The Kyle Zimmer selection and the impressive recent production out of Tyler Naquin give the Tribe a bit of future outfield depth that will soften the blow of a Clint Frazier trade. The risk involved in all of those players reaching their peak and thriving doesn’t outweigh the impact that Price can have to push the Indians over the top if they are going to contend in 2015.
Michael Chaney (Wahoo’s on First)

Of the two, I’d probably prefer Samardzija. It’s splitting hairs in my opinion, but Price’s velocity is down, his ERA is higher (though his advanced metrics suggest he’s been pitching better), and I’m still kind of offended at the ridiculous price (no pun intended, I swear) that the Rays allegedly wanted from the Indians for Price last offseason. But aces don’t come cheap, and I know the Cubs are going to shoot for the moon in negotiations with clubs about Samardzija as well. But, to be honest, I’d prefer to steer clear of either one if at all possible.

So I have a different name in mind — Ian Kennedy. He’s looked dominant at times during his career and is again this season, but he’s been under the radar this year since he pitches for the Padres. Say what you want about pitching at Petco Park, but Kennedy’s already solid ERA is much higher than his FIP and xFIP — meaning that he’s pitched even better than his impressive numbers say that he has been. He’s also pitched (albeit somewhat briefly) in the AL East with the Yankees, he strikes out about a batter per inning, and he has terrific control. He’s also in just his second year of arbitration, and should be a lot easier to keep after his club control runs out than either Price or Samardzija would be (even though Scott Boras is Kennedy’s agent).

I’m not exactly sure what kind of package the Indians would have to piece together to entice the Padres to deal Kennedy, but it should be much less for the Indians to acquire him than Price or Samardzija, even though Kennedy could provide similar production. I’m a big fan of Tyler Naquin and I’ve been impressed by what he’s done this season, but including him in a deal would seem to make sense for both teams. Naquin seems like a perfect fit to play in San Diego, and the Indians suddenly seem to have more young outfielders than they know what to do with. There could definitely be a deal not involving any of the Indians’ best prospects, but that doesn’t seem as likely. I’d love to trade Dorsyss Paulino instead, but I’m sure the Padres would rather have Naquin. I’ll say Naquin or Paulino, along with an extra player or two, might be enough to make a deal for now, but I’m not even going to pretend like I know what the Padres would want.
I’d also be interested in trading for the Cubs’ Jason Hammel (who’s already on the market) or the Mets’ Dillon Gee (who could be, but it’s far from certain). Both Hammel and Gee would appear to be even cheaper than Kennedy, and I think the Indians had interest in signing Hammel last offseason anyway.
Joe Coblitz (Burning River Baseball)

To answer the question given, I would prefer Samardzija. While Price has a lot of things going for him, including being much more of a sure thing after posting an ERA of under 3.50 for the past three years, it is likely going to be too hard to obtain him. The Indians tried, among many others in the past off-season, to obtain Price’s services and failed. This season, Samardzija has been slightly better (2.95 vs 3.04 FIP), but it will be the three time All-Star, Price who brings in the bigger haul. The primary reason for this is that both players are still under team control for the 2015 season and the Rays have a chance at competing for a title next year. Of course, when it really comes down to it, I would suspect that a team outbids the Indians for both of these players.

The second part of this question is why they are likely to get outbid. Any team would love to have Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis signed under their current long term contracts, but they have to be off the table in any talks. Without them, any chances of another Central Division title or more in the upcoming seasons are thrown away. Obviously, there are players the Indians want to trade (Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson), but are unwanted by teams like the Cubs or Rays. I would have them instead, deal from a strength. The Indians are extremely strong up the middle after years of drafting short stops and centerfielders and they have plenty to throw around. Tyler Holt and Tyler Naquin would be on my tradeable list as well as Ronny Rodriguez, Tony Wolters and Giovanny Urshela. This level of player may not be enough for a superstar like Smardzija or Price, it could be enough for a lesser pitcher late in the season. At no point should the Indians trade a possible super star who is under control for years to come, like Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, or Francisco Lindor for a year and a half of a pitcher who is great now, mortgaging the future of the franchise for a chance to win now.
Ed Carroll (Wahoo’s on First)
I’m not sure either make a ton of sense for the Indians in terms of salary or what talent the team would give up, but I’d rather have David Price. I’d prefer the rental, oddly, as I feel the team would be giving up less in talent and remaining flexible financially. I don’t know what would interest the Rays in terms of talent. I’d leave only Lindor and Frazier as untouchable in the eligible prospects to be traded. Paulino and Zach McAllister would likely be the initial headliners in an offer,  but I suspect at least one other good prospect (Tyler Naquin is a possibility here) . I’d also anticipate having to part with a young pen arm or two
Steve Kinsella (Wahoo’s on First)

I would not trade for David Price or Jeff Samardzija as the asking price will be too much for a team like the Indians to afford. The Indians must use this period of time to allow the farm system to mature and guys like Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Clint Frazier should not be used in trade at this time.

If I were the Indians I would scour the trade market for the best late inning reliever available (Huston Street for instance) and plug him into the back (notice I did not automatically say closer) of the Tribe’s bullpen.
Perhaps the easiest starting pitcher to acquire would be Dan Haren from the Los Angeles Dodgers if they become the number one team to chase David Price (which I believe they will). In acquiring Price the Dodgers will have to find a 3rd team for either Haren or Josh Beckett. I don’t see the Dodgers wanting to part ways with Beckett (although he’d be my first choice).
Haren (7-4, 3.54 ERA/4.11 FIP) has been having a nice season with the Dodgers and is making $10M. The Dodgers hold a club option for $10M for 2015 that flips to a players option if he reaches 180 innings pitched.  Currently he is at 86.1 innings pitched and their would be some risk of that option kicking in.
I would not want Haren if I were the Indians but there is a tipping point where the cost to obtain him may make him an attractive get.
Matt Bretz (Wahoo’s on First)
This was a tough one for me.  I’m kind of in the same boat as Steve in that I want to choose neither here. The cost of each is going to be thru the roof.  However, if I’m choosing one to get, I am choosing Jeff Samardzija.  Do I think he is better than Price?  No.  Do I think there’s risk with him switching to the AL midseason? Absolutely.  However, I do believe he’ll cost less to get plus, and maybe more importantly, he will cost a lot less in salary.  Price is making $14M this year and has another arbitration year left. He very likely will be getting $18M next year or thereabouts.  Samardzija is in the same boat as far as service time/arbitration, but he’s only making $5.345M.  Even if he gets a 100% increase you’re looking at around $10.5M next year.  Still a lot for the Tribe but when factoring in 2013 salary left, he’d cost around $13M, whereas Price would cost almost double at around $25M.  Tribe would probably have to move salary to fit Price, but could probably squeeze Samardzija in without requiring another move.  And I may be very naïve here, but I do believe you could get Samardzija without dealing Lindor.  I do not believe there is any chance of that with Price.  One reason I think you can avoid dealing Lindor for Samardzija is the presence of Baez in the Cubs system.  They have a top 5 SS prospect of their own.  Could slide him to 3B and make way for Lindor but they also have Bryant and Mike Olt there.  If the Tribe were to offer Jose Ramirez, Clint Frazier, and Cody Anderson I think you at least get the Cubs attention.  May have to include Salazar in lieu of Anderson and that could be a dealbreaker but if I can get a current top of the rotation starter without giving up Lindor I think you have to consider it if you’re Cleveland.
That all said…like Steve mentioned, I’d look at another starter that should cost less. Staying with the Cubs, Jason Hammel really intrigues me.  Very solid numbers. Won’t be an easy guy to get but shouldn’t cost close to what Samardzija or Price will cost.
Adam Hintz (It’s Pronounced ‘Lajaway’)

As others have said, I think the price for either of these guys is going to be so high as to render this question moot. Samardzjia especially so – I think the Cubs are rightfully holding out for a team to get desperate in July, and it probably will happen (someone in the NL East, or perhaps the Angels?).

David Price is a totally different story though, because this is almost certainly his last season in Tampa, and the Rays are officially sellers now (barring a miraculous comeback between now and the All Star break, at least). I think he could be had for a moderate package, and I assume the Indians will be testing the waters.
What would I give up? I’d dangle a package centered around Frazier. Given the tenuous (at best) status of Price’s contract status, would a package of Frazier, Joey Wendle, Giovanny Urshela get it done for a 1 year rental? I don’t know. Probably not. Even if it did, most would probably say that’s too much to give up.
The important thing is, I don’t think the Rays laugh and hang up at that offer. Frazier is years away from contributing at the major league level, but should grow into legitimate middle-of-the-order power. Wendle has shown promise at AA, but he’s blocked by Jason Kipnis at the major league level, and Urshela is a prime sell-high candidate who wasn’t really on the team’s radar prior to the this season.
The biggest question in all of this: would the Indians be willing to toss $20 million a season at Price? They’d probably need to go 5years/$100 million at the least and that probably won’t be enough anyway.
So, despite all that hand-wringing, I think it’s overwhelmingly in the Indians’ best interest to just sit tight. Price would look great in a Cleveland uniform, but it’s ultimately a very long pipe dream.
Brian Heise (Wahoo’s on First)
In all honesty, I don’t think the Indians are in a position to be buyers. Call me crazy, but I still don’t feel like this is the year to blow their wad to go for it. In addition, I also feel like the asking price for either Price or Samarzjda will be way too high and possibly ruin the work the Indians have been doing to rebuild what was a minor league system lacking an abundance of talent. If the Indians stay close, I think they’d be better served acquiring a cheap bat and try to catch lightning in a bottle down the stretch. We’ve yet to get a clear picture for who might be available offensively, but given the Indians occasional issues at the plate, an upgrade could be much welcomed. Worst case scenario, they could offer the Marlins a succulent deal like Ira Newble, Damon Jones, Bill Selby and a bucket of Double Bubble for Giancarlo Stanton. Who says no to that first? Obviously not the Marlins, that’s for sure. Roll Tribe!
Kyle Downing (Wahoo’s on First)
Given the choice between the two of them, I think I’d rather trade for Jeff Samardzija.  He’s still got room to improve, as he’s shown in the past couple of years, and will be less expensive to acquire and employ through 2015.  As a Super Two, David Price will earn somewhere close to $18 million next year, while Samardzija’s salary could top out at $10 million.  David Price has also shown a bit of inconsistency over the past two seasons since he won the American League Cy Young award.  But what’s even more interesting is that Samardzija came up as a middle-reliever, while Price came up as a starter in the same year.  One result of this is that Price has thrown close to 6,000 more pitches in his career than Samardzija; an important factor in issuing him a possible long-term extension.
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