As the hours ticked down to the trade deadline Thursday morning, a fascinating topic was circulating big league front offices that had nothing to do with the A's and Red Sox:
"Don't be surprised," said an executive of one team, "if you see David Price get traded today."
Wait. What? Way too easily, way too conveniently, the outside world seemed to have concluded this week that the Rays were going to keep Price, their ace. Just because they've played so well for the past month and a half. Just because they could still keep him and trade him this winter.
But sources said the Rays were talking actively to a number of clubs Thursday about Price. An official of one of those clubs got the sense that the realization had hit the Rays that their odds of playing in October -- 9.0 percent on the ESPN standings page, 10.6 percent over at Baseball Prospectus -- were still so steep that they had to explore every avenue that could lead to a Price trade.
Not that the asking price had come down. That part hasn't appeared to change appreciably since Wednesday, when another exec said the return would have to be a package so loaded that "they couldn't say no."
An American League executive described the Rays' approach this way: "They know what they want to do," he said at one point. "If they get what they want, they'll do it in a heartbeat," he said at another point. "They want to do a deal, but they're not going to do it under value," he said at a third juncture.
With Jon Lester off the market before most GMs had finished digesting breakfast, there was plenty of time for all the teams that fell short on Lester -- the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays and even the Marlins -- to make one last run at the other true difference-maker on the market.
Teams that had spoken with the Rays said they weren't merely listening. They were actively trying to make a deal.
"Oh, they're trying," said an executive of one of those teams. "I guarantee you they are."