Rival officials are monitoring the market in the way that meteorologists follow weather patterns, and they believe that the Rays are prepared to move the former Cy Young Award winner. As in, right now.
The Rays aren't actually close to trading Price, according to sources.
If the Rays are resigned to trading their ace, doing it this season makes sense. They'll likely get more value in return from a contending team looking to add an arm to bolster a postseason run than they would in the offseason — obviously 1 1/2 seasons' worth of Price's services are worth more than one.
And trading Price during the 2015 season — his last before free agency — would cost the acquiring team the compensatory draft picks it would get if he signed elsewhere, lessening Price's trade value. Plus, even typically healthy pitchers like Price always face some injury risk, and every start he makes for Tampa Bay comes with the grim chance he'll get hurt and cost the club a huge potential haul.
See Also: Price admits trade rumors affect him
About that: It's hard to say how much the Rays will get in return for Price, since pitchers of his age and ability aren't often dealt. But assume it'll take a ton. Think at least two very well-regarded prospects, or a much-hyped young player already performing in the big leagues.
The Rays scored Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and prospect Mike Montgomery in the trade that sent two seasons' worth of James Shields to the Royals, and Shields isn't as good as Price. And when the Mets traded reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, they got back top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and fireballer Noah Syndergaard, now a consensus top-10 starting-pitching prospect.
Basically every team in the Majors would benefit from adding a pitcher like Price, a bona fide and durable ace who has been a bit unlucky in 2014 but is still at the top of his game. But obviously teams with a chance at a postseason berth would be more likely to shell out what's necessary to snare a potential Game 1 starter.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times lists a few that seem to have interest:
Of those clubs, the Cardinals probably have the greatest wealth of young talent with which to deal, but they also have the least need for an ace starter. So they might not be motivated to put together a package worthy of landing Price.
Conversely, the Yankees are very clearly built to win now and could desperately use a frontline starter to pair with Masahiro Tanaka. But their top prospect, catcher Gary Sanchez, is probably not close enough to Major League success to tempt the Rays more than what some other team will inevitably offer.
The Giants might match up nicely if they're willing to move at least one of their well-regarded pitching prospects. The Indians wouldn't be wise to part with a top young player on behalf of the next season and a half, since they're 37-40 and six games back of the Tigers in the Central. And the Blue Jays' walk-prone top pitching prospects, Aaron Sanchez and Alberto Tirado, don't seem like the Rays' type.
But plenty more teams will certainly be checking in on Price. Obviously, we haven't heard anything like the last of trade rumors surrounding the lefty.
(Thanks to Eye on Baseball for calling our attention to this story.)