Speculation on the Rays' potential trade of ace left hander David Price has punctuated nearly every rumor that has circulated this offseason, but the team could just as well decide to keep him, as ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider required).
Price is set to hit free agency in 2015, and he will almost certainly command more than the Rays can give him, so the assumption that they would consider moving him now -- when they can offer two years of control -- is far from unfounded.
However, the Rays won 92 games last season, and have made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons, so they might consider Price too valuable to their success in 2014 to trade him.
He would presumably bring back a much more significant return this winter than he would as his free agency approaches, but Tampa Bay sees his trade value as a secondary concern to their designs on returning to the postseason.
Before the 2013 season, team owner Stuart Sternberg spoke with the local media about the former Cy Young winner's future with his team.
"(Executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman) said and correctly that there is no question that we can handle a contract like David’s, but what are you able to put around him? But right now, and correctly, David is focused on this season and we’re focused on this season and speculatively it’s way too early for people to be focused on what’s three years from now, four years from now. David is an enormous part of this organization and has been so through all the success from 2008 to 2013."
On the widely popular belief that the Rays will be forced to trade Price after this season: "We haven’t had those thoughts. Others have speculated. There’s been speculation but we haven’t had those thoughts at all."
On whether the Rays can keep Price next year: "Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely."
The team's approach doesn't appear to have changed much from last spring. The Rays are one of the most prolific teams in baseball when it comes to producing -- and acquiring -- prospects, but there isn't a pennant for having the most coveted farm system.