ST. PETERSBURG — David Price plans to play golf today, and when he plays golf, he keeps his phone in his golf bag. So if the big call comes, the one informing him that he's been traded, there is a good chance Price will miss it.
Price intends to play a carefree round, because he expects to be a member of the Rays on Friday when the homestand resumes with a weekend series against the Angels.
“Absolutely,” he said Wednesday after the Rays 5-0 loss to the visiting Brewers.
So does Rays manager Joe Maddon.
“Yep, I do,” Maddon said. “It takes two to dance, boys.”
The non-waiver trade deadline is 4 p.m. today. Price is still the biggest name on the market, though the dance partners seem to be dwindling and the pool has been expanded to include a pair of Red Sox pitchers, Jon Lester and John Lackey.
The Cardinals, believed to be the front runner along with the Dodgers in the Price Sweepstakes, traded Wednesday for right-hander Justin Masterson of the Indians in exchange for James Ramsey, on of their top outfield prospects. The Dodgers are believed to no longer be interested in a front-line starter.
The Mariners, who were expected to trade for Price last offseason, are still in the running.
Things can change as the deadline nears, and mystery teams can always emerge in the final hours.
Price won't know for sure if he is still a Ray until the deadline passes.
Yet, the ace of the Rays staff has said for weeks he doesn't expect to be traded, and his teammates feel the Rays surge that began June 11 has convinced executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman that it's worth keeping the team together so they can make a run at the postseason.
“We need David,” Jeremy Hellickson said. “We're not going to get to where we want to be without him. We need him, and I hope to see him Friday.”
When asked what it would mean if Friedman does not trade Price -- or anyone else -- Alex Cobb said, “It means it's go time. It means the front office has confidence in us that we can make a run at this despite the uphill battle that we put ourselves in. It means with Price on this team we have a chance to play in October.”
It could also mean Friedman couldn't find a dance partner.
Friedman traded James Shields and Wade Davis in December 2012 to Kansas City for Wil Myers, the Royals top prospect, and Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, two of the Royals top pitching prospects.
The Rays are looking for a better package than they received from the Royals. A trade with the Cardinals would likely include top prospect Oscar Tavares, a left-handed hitting corner outfielder, where a trade with the Dodgers would reportedly involve a combination of shortstop prospect Corey Seager, outfield prospect Joe Pederson and pitching prospects Julio Urias and Chris Anderson.
Friedman is not under any pressure to trade Price since Price is under team control through the end of the 2015 season. If nothing happens today, Friedman could still shop Price during the offseason or next July.
Or, Friedman could let Price leave as a free agent after next season.
While Friedman's plan has been to move his high-end pitchers two years before they hit free agency -- Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Shields -- he was willing to let outfielders Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton and first baseman Carlos Pena leave as free agents in exchange for a compensation draft pick.
Also, Friedman normally does not make a splash at the trade deadline.
Maddon said today's deadline will bring closure to the “Will he/Will he not” rumors surrounding Price.
“I would absolutely be pleased just to get it off everybody's minds,” Maddon said.
Maddon also added baseball is a business, and players are traded to keep the business afloat.
When asked if he is anxious to learn the fate of his top pitcher, Maddon said, “It's hard to get me in that moment. My conversations with Andrew ... you just got to do your job. I hate to disappoint. You lose Shields, you lose Crawford, you lose B.J., you lost a lot of good guys over the years, that's what happens around here. Until we build a new ballpark it's going to continue to happen.”
But none of those players were moved at the trade deadline and on the heels of a 29-13 run.
“That would be somewhat different,” Maddon said. “We normally don't get people. We normally don't lose people during the season. We'll see, man. Regardless of what happens, I still believe we're still in this thing, and I feel very strongly we'll be there at the end regardless how it shakes out the next couple of days.”