Should Washington trade for David Price if it means bolstering the farm system?
After almost a decade of having one of the highest payrolls in baseball Washington enters 2022 with plenty of money to spend. FanGraphs predicts the Nationals 2022 payroll at $136,443,333, leaving Mike Rizzo and company plenty of room to make moves.
But since the Nats are just entering the first full year of their rebuild/reload, they should focus on targeting players on bad contracts in order to acquire prospects in return. Teams attach prospects in order to dump salary all the time with the Jackie Bradley Jr. trade coming to mind.
Boston shipped out Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee for JBJ, and two prospects. Boston was able to bring back a key contributor to their 2018 World Series title while bolstering the farm and in return, the Brewers got an offensive upgrade.
There are plenty of players on massive deals that teams are looking to unload, but the Nats shouldn’t take on a contract longer than 2-3 years. Mike Rizzo plans for the Nationals to become contenders again within that time frame and they will need the books cleared by then.
One player in particular the Nationals should set their eyes on is David Price. The former AL Cy Young winner has become a shell of his former self and is entering the last year of his contract. He is owed $32 million. Washington needs pitching help and last year Price was used as both a starter and a reliever.
Why A David Price Trade Makes Sense
Attaching prospects in a trade in order to dump salary is very unlikely due to the Dodgers’ willingness to always exceed the luxury tax. But the chance to move Price’s contract off the books should be tantalizing.
The argument can be made because he only has one year left on his deal, the Dodgers should just wait it out. However, LA just lost Max Scherzer and Corey Seager to free agency and need to replace their production.
Carlos Correa is the top free agent on the market and the Dodgers can use the money they save from trading Price to bolster their lineup. If they don’t want to splurge on Correa, they can turn their attention to Nick Castellanos, Kris Bryant, or Kyle Schwarber.
With the Nationals, Price can help bolster a bullpen that finished 29th in ERA in 2021. In 39 appearances last year, 11 of them starts, he went 5-2, with a 4.03 ERA, 58 strikeouts, and a 4.23 FIP.
What Would A Proposed David Price Trade Look Like?
Despite trading away Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray and promoting top prospects every year, the Dodgers farm system is still flowing with talent. That just goes to show how strong their scouting and development teams are.
Obviously, Diego Cartaya, Ryan Pepiot, Micahel Busch, Bobby Miller, Andy Pages, and Miguel Vargas are all off-limits and understandably so. That’s not to say there aren’t any other intriguing options.
To start, Washington should ask for RHP Clayton Beeter the Dodgers 9th per MLB Pipeline, while the Nationals could offer pitching prospects, Tim Cate and Seth Romero, their 13th and 24th ranked prospects.
Beeter would be the main prize for Washington. Only 23, he spent last year at A+ and AA going 0-6, with a 3.44 ERA, and 78 strikeouts while opponents hit a meager .205 against him. He posted a 4.20 ERA in 15 innings at AA to end the year.
MLB Pipeline broke down his pitching repertoire stating,
"His fastball can park at 93-96 mph and reach 98 with good carry though the top of the strike zone, his high-spin low-80s curveball can be an absolute hammer and the organization has had him shelve his mid-80s slider for now to focus on his other pitches.Beeter also shows flashes of a solid changeup with some sink and fade, and he tunnels all his pitches well with an overhand delivery that creates deception and downhill plane."
With Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May all entrenched in the Dodgers rotation for the foreseeable future, and both Ryan Pepiot and Andre Jackson close to MLB ready, Beeter finds himself blocked.
Due to his high strikeout rate, including Beeter in a salary dump may seem like too much, but in win-now mode, the Dodgers can put that money to good use. In return, the Dodgers will receive two pitching prospects who have started to lose their luster.
A second-round pick in 2018, Cate was named the Nationals 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Across A and A+, he posted a 3.07 ER, with 139 strikeouts in 29 starts. Unfortunately, he has yet to build upon that success. He struggled this past season, posting a 5.31 ERA in 21 starts at AA, while opponents hit .288 against him.
Washington drafted Romero in the first round of 2017, but off-the-field issues and injuries have derailed his career. Romero made his MLB debut in 2020, posting a 13.50 ERA in 2 2/3 innings. He broke his non-throwing hand when he fell down the steps, ending his 2020 season.
This past season, he worked his way back, posting a 4.54 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings across Rookie League, A, AA, and AAA. Romero is MLB ready and could benefit from being turned into a reliever. A change of scenery can help the 25-year-old stay on track.
For Washington, they need to find any way to add to the farm system and if it means taking on an aging David Price, then so be it.