Pirates general manager Neal Huntington makes a call as the team works out Sept. 30, 2013 at PNC Park.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SAN FRANCISCO — The Tampa Bay Rays are off today, and David Price is going golfing. The ace left-hander plans to leave his phone in his golf bag, he said in an interview on MLB Network. If the Rays trade him before the 4 p.m. deadline, he will find out after the round.
Those around the league will pay slightly more attention than Price to where he, and others, are sent or not sent before the 4 p.m. today for the non-waiver deadline. Among the unknowns: Do the surging Rays actually deal Price? What are the best offers the Boston Red Sox receive for pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey? Can the Philadelphia Phillies negotiate something to move one of their several expensive veterans?
The Pirates desire pitching help and have interest in Lester. The maelstrom of media reports regarding Lester’s eventual destination continued to spin Wednesday. The Boston Globe, citing sources on both sides, said the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles had advanced discussions about a trade involving Lester.
Any package sent to Boston for Lester likely would need to include a major leaguer, according to a source. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell have said publicly that the team is attempting to compete next season.
The Pirates, 57-50 and squarely in the race for the National League Central Division title, did not make a move a year ago at the deadline. They made three in 2012, trading for Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez and Chad Qualls, after adding Wandy Rodriguez the week before.
One team that had some interest in Lester, the St. Louis Cardinals, added right-hander Justin Masterson to their rotation in a trade Wednesday with a Cleveland Indians. That does not rule out St. Louis as a destination for Lester but makes a deal less likely.
Reports from MLB Network and Yahoo! Sports said the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were also interested in Lester, did not want to part with top prospects Julio Urias, Corey Seager or Joc Pederson. They were backing out of the market for top starting pitchers Wednesday afternoon.
Now more than ever, the money owed, or not owed, to trade candidates factors into teams’ decisions, put on a sliding scale with the player’s talent and the team need.
“The contracts are definitely weighted and play a significant role, but just as significant [a] role, in many of the other trades, when it’s not a large contract they’re talking about, are controllable years,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t ever remember that being as significant a part of the equation as it is now.”
Part of the reason the Red Sox are looking to trade Lester is their inability to sign him to a contract extension. He will become a free agent after the season, and they reportedly aren’t thrilled about receiving nothing but a draft pick in return for him if he signs elsewhere.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Ryan Howard, among others, signed, or committed with contract options, past 2014.
The Phillies owe Lee and Howard hefty sums. In addition to this, teams often have to part with young, controllable players to acquire these trade candidates.
“The new wave of general managers have taken it and really kind of turned this thing inside out in a very structured, smart, intellectual sort of way,” Hurdle said. “… I think it’s just looked at in a different lens than it ever has been before.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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