Matthew Pouliot

Mariners, Rays discussing David Price, Ben Zobrist trade

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In the interests of maximizing their return, the Rays probably aren’t looking to package David Price and Ben Zobrist in the same deal. The Mariners, though, have enough talent to make it worth their while.

According to FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi, the two teams are discussing the pair of All-Stars. They’ll be expensive, as both are under control through 2015. Price is looking at making $17 million-$20 million in arbitration next year, while Zobrist’s contract includes a bargain $7.5 million option for 2015.

Any Price deal between the Rays and Mariners seems likely to include right-hander Taijuan Walker, who first reached the majors last September and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five major league starts. The 21-year-old is healthy again now after missing the first two months with shoulder inflammation.

The Rays will also be interested in the Mariners’ crop of young infielders, a group that includes current starting shortstop Brad Miller, shortstop prospect Chris Taylor and former first-round picks Nick Franklin and D.J. Peterson. Catcher Mike Zunino would be another obvious target, but the Mariners would have a difficult time trading him with no fallback available.

For Price alone, a deal bringing back Walker, Franklin and a lesser talent might be sufficient for the Rays. Adding Zobrist to the mix, though, would increase the price substantially. Miller’s inclusion makes some sense for both teams. The Rays would love to bring in a long-term shortstop with their own former top prospect, Hak-Ju Lee, having stalled out. Plus, the Mariners could afford to part with Miller if they get Zobrist. For one thing, Zobrist can still play shortstop adequately. Plus, they’d still have the option of giving Taylor a shot and putting Zobrist in the outfield. Taylor has hit .315/.391/.493 in 270 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma this season.

Alternatively, if the Mariners want to do a deal without giving up a big chunk of this year’s team, Peterson would be a nice piece for the Rays. Nominally a third baseman, Peterson projects as a first baseman in the majors. He’s hit .314/.371/.578 with 34 homers in 547 at-bats since being selected 12th overall out of the University of New Mexico last year. He’s currently in Double-A, and he could be ready to replace James Loney by mid-2015.