When Does Rays Fire
The Rays were projected in the spring at sportbooks as American League East favorites so they have been a massive disappointment sitting in last in the division. The team's streak of four straight seasons with at least 90 wins is going to end barring the greatest second half of the season in baseball history. General Manager Andre Friedman and Manager Joe Maddon aren't in any trouble whatsoever as they are widely considered among the best in baseball at what they do. The Rays are just hamstrung by playing in the worst ballpark in the majors, Tropicana Field, and lousy home attendance (only Cleveland is worse).
So barring a major hot streak before July 31, Price is a goner (maybe Ben Zobrist too). Price would be the top pitcher on the market because he can't become a free agent until after next season and has big-game experience. However, it's going to have to be a big-market team to land Price because he might get $20 million in arbitration this winter (which the Rays can't afford, much less re-signing him). There's also no chance he doesn't test the market after 2015.
The Yankees badly need pitching with now CC Sabathia likely done for the season alongside Ivan Nova. Who knows when Michael Pineda will return. The Blue Jays would be a major force with the addition of Price as they already are a terrific offensive team. Toronto is extra motivated to do something because the franchise hasn't been in the postseason since 1993. The Orioles could use Price too. The question is whether the Rays are willing to deal him inside the division and watch him beat their brains out the rest of this season and next. It helped Tampa Bay's bargaining power in a big way that the Cubs traded both Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel to Oakland on Saturday.
Given the option, the Rays would much prefer to deal him to the National League. The Cardinals have a need with Michael Wacha's injury and they are rich in prospects. The Braves could get into the mix and perhaps the Dodgers just because they are the Dodgers. The Giants are more focused on adding hitting.
Price (7-7, 3.50) just finished off a June where he had a 2.27 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 39.2 innings over five starts (striking out at least 10 in all five) with just five walks. Yet he was only 2-3 because the Rays' offense is no good. Price "only" whiffed nine in his July 1 start at the Yankees, holding them to a run and four hits over seven innings in a win. Price hasn't faced the Tigers since 2012. Miguel Cabrera struggles in a big way against him, going 1-for-14 with six strikeouts. Austin Jackson is 2-for-14 with eight strikeouts. Victor Martinez has no problems, going 8-for-17 with three homers and five RBIs off Price in his career.
Porcello No Slouch
As good as Price has been of late, he can't really touch Tigers starter Rick Porcello (11-4, 3.14), who deserves to make his first All-Star team. Porcello brings a 25-inning scoreless streak into this one and has thrown back-to-back complete-game shutouts, holding the A's and Rangers to seven combined hits. Against Oakland on Tuesday, Porcello became the first pitcher since 1989 to throw a complete-game shutout without a walk or strikeout. He is the first Tigers pitcher to do that since 1944. Porcello is also the first Tiger with consecutive shutouts since Jack Morris had three straight in 1986. That stat surprised me as I would have assumed Justin Verlander had done so. Porcello has 20 strikeouts in his past six starts (and 62 on the season) combined to Price's 63. Very different pitchers but equally effective.
Porcello faced the Rays once last season, taking the loss in St. Petersburg, allowing three runs and eight hits in six innings. The Tampa Bay player who has hit Porcello the best, outfielder David DeJesus, is on the DL. So is shortstop Yunel Escobar. Evan Longoria is 1-for-8 off Porcello with three strikeouts. James Loney is 2-for-7 with a double and RBI.
MLB Free Picks
Tigers +100 and under 7.5 runs on MLB odds. Wow, a guy with a 25-inning scoreless streak is an underdog. Won't see that often. And he's at home. Great value. The Tigers are 5-0 in Porcello's past five as a dog. The 'under' is 5-0 in his past five vs. the Rays and 4-1 in Price's past five against Detroit.