ST. PETERSBURG — David Price will be on the mound tonight when the Rays open a nine-game homestand against the Red Sox, and with the non-waiver trade deadline set for Thursday, the question will get asked again: Is this his last start in a Rays uniform?
The feeling among his teammates is no, that the team has re-entered the playoff race and that with Price they can catch whoever they need to catch to earn a postseason spot.
Still, the front office always has one eye on the future and the Rays aren’t the only team in the field of playoff contenders, and Price might never be more valuable in a trade as he is now.
Because of that, Price and his teammates know he could be gone by Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
And how will that news be met in the Rays clubhouse?
“I’m not going to lie,” Evan Longoria said. “It’s going to (stink).”
Right now, Price is on a very short list of the best pitchers in baseball. But his worth to the team goes deeper than what he does every fifth day. He is the biggest cheerleader, the loudest screamer in the dugout.
“He’s one of the best teammates I ever had,” Longoria said.
Alex Cobb used the word “devastating,” when thinking of what might happen if executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman received an offer he can’t refuse for Price or Ben Zobrist or anyone else on the team during the next seven days. The Rays are a major league-best 25-11 since June 11. They have their mojo back, Cobb said.
“I do believe we have put ourselves in a position to make a (playoff) run,” Cobb said. “Anyone who was a fan in 2011 you know that this team is not out of it.”
And yet, Cobb said, the Rays have only themselves to blame for being in this position, for being four games under .500 this late in the season and for forcing Friedman to ponder whether it’s time to move Price for prospects, trade what could happen during the final two months of the season for what could happen in 2015 and beyond.
“I would absolutely understand it,” Cobb said. “The front office would believe that this was the best decision to be made for our organization now and going forward. Players play, the front office makes up the team and you play with what you got. I’m not going to say I won’t be upset for a while, but in the long run I know it’s what they thought is best for us.”
Added Matt Joyce, “I think they’ll make a decision based on what’s the best option for them now and in the future. If something presents itself that helps us be successful in the next couple of years, it’s probably going to be hard to say no.”
And if they do trade Price, then what?
“It’s the nature of the business,” Joyce said. “It might be a little blow to the team’s self-esteem or confidence, but I don’t think it’s going to make us throw in the towel by any means.”
Added Cobb, “Whatever does happen, we know that it’s not a give up on the season or throwing in the towel and saying we don’t have a chance. Whatever does happen, it’s going to be up to us to still compete this year and move forward. ... It will be very tough on the players, but by no means are you going to see any of us quit if that’s the case.”
Price was the big topic of conversation during the Rays’ two days in St. Louis this week because the Cardinals are one of the teams believed to be interested in trading for Price.
Price will remain the big topic this week as the Rays try to move closer to a playoff spot as the schedule moves closer to the trade deadline.
“I feel like we’ve done as much as we possibly could have to make the decision a little bit tougher,” Longoria said. “I hate speculating. I hate having to think about it or talk about what I think is going to happen. I’ll just say that I firmly believe that whatever the decision is that Andrew and the front office will have the best interest of the team going forward at heart.
“If they feel that keeping David here is the decision, then we’ll understand that they see and respect our efforts and really believe in this team making a playoff push. And that’s the most important thing. And if it’s the other way around, then we look at it as business as usual. You can’t give up. You can’t just cash it in. I’ve said it before: There’s really no replacing David Price. If he’s not here, that will be a tough pill to swallow that day.”