This has been a frequent topic of conversation among Mike, Ben, and me: Would you sign Mark Prior if he isn’t tendered by the Cubs? Well, that question might change to: Who would you trade for Mark Prior? According to Buster Olney, the Cubs are considering trade proposals for the 27-year-old righty, who is seeking a multi-year deal from the Cubbies, rather than having to face another year of arbitration.
Now, we know Prior has never been the same since 2003, a year in which he absolutely dominated: 245 strikeouts to 50 walks in 211.1 innings, plus a decently impressive postseason that year (though he walked far too many batters in that short span). Many attribute this to Dusty Baker’s gross misuse of Prior. Or it could be that he’s especially fragile.
Earlier this year, Prior had surgery on his ailing shoulder. According to Andrews, he “performed a debridement of Prior’s rotator cuff and repaired labral and capsular injuries in the shoulder.” Not sure exactly what that means, but from what I’ve gathered the surgery entailed fixing a lot of small, nagging things that could have been affecting Prior’s performance as long ago as 2004. That’s not to say that he’s been injured since then, but it’s a possibility.
So this leaves us with two questions. First, what’s the highest you’d bid for Prior? I’d be reluctant to go as high as Alan Horne, since we have no clue as to Prior’s current abilities. But I’d still be willing to enter negotiations in a prospective trade. You just can’t ignore the talent Prior possesses.
The other question is, what role would Prior fill? He’s still looking to be a starter, and he’d probably be most valuable in that role. However, there have to be concerns about his endurance, after having pitched just 210 innings over the past three years. He could be valuable as a swingman, taking starts from injured and/or ineffective players (Mussina), or giving the young guys some extra rest.
As always, the issue comes down to price. What would the Yankees be willing to give up, and what are the Cubs looking for in return? There are probably 15 to 20 teams at least marginally interested in Prior, and although I don’t envision a bidding war erupting, it’s possible that another team comes in with a slightly better offer and the other teams aren’t given a chance to modify theirs. So it could amount to a crapshoot.
I think he’s worth the risk. What about you?