What is the question for the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays, especially when David Price is mentioned?

To deal or not to deal?

That is the question.

At the beginning of July, the move seemed like a no-brainer for a franchise that pinches pennies and is constantly looking for ways to build upon its youthful talent pool.  Dealing away its ace at the trade deadline would easily bring in quite a haul for the future.

Fans of the team hated the idea, but it made a lot of sense for the front office.

Rumors swirled.

Then came the hot streak – as hot as the Florida sun.

The Rays are now 16-5 in July, posting a .762 winning percentage, which is the best mark in baseball.  Sitting at 52-54, Tampa Bay is still fourth place in the AL East, seven games back of the division-leading Orioles, and 4 ½ games back in the Wild Card race.

But the playoffs are now a reachable goal, with 50-plus games remaining in the regular season.

On top of that, Tampa Bay’s offense has played a lot better this month, batting .269 as a team, which is ranked 7th in all of baseball.  The pitching staff has posted a 2.73 ERA, second only to the Mariners.

David Price’s value continues to skyrocket, especially considering that he leads the team in wins (11), qualifying ERA (3.08) and strikeouts (183).  Sixteen of Price’s twenty-two starts have been of the quality variety, and he’s 5-0 in July, posting a 1.36 ERA.

David Price pitches for Tampa Bay Rays

David Price has been mentioned in trade rumors, but KP thinks the Rays should keep him

The rest of the rotation has also pitched well, including Alex Cobb (3-0, 2.59 ERA in four July starts), Jake Odorizzi (4-0, 2.90 in last five starts) and the newly returned Jeremy Hellickson (1.00 ERA in two starts).

Teams will continue calling, and hoping that “the price is right”.  

A lot of them.

Numerous contenders could use more pitching, including the division rival Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays.  Don’t expect an inner-division trade, however.  The Dodgers could be another option, as L.A. has endless cash and plenty of World Series dreams.  Pittsburgh is another option, along with the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.

But the question remains: Should the Rays still consider moving David Price?

Consider?  Yes.

Move?  No.

The Wild Card is still obtainable, and with a steady manager like Joe Maddon, the Rays should go for it.

Tampa Bay is getting healthier and the offense is coming around.

It also would (and should) take a lot of prospects to even pry Price away, which is something that a lot of teams just aren’t doing these days.  Yes, the A’s did it a few weeks back, but that was a rarity.

Tampa Bay’s schedule is another reason to hang onto Price.

The upcoming week will be a challenge, with the Brewers currently in town, the Angels to follow and a trip to Oakland to cap it off.  Escape that stretch in good shape, and the Rays will have a seven-game road stretch against the lowly Cubs and struggling Rangers.

Heading into the final nine games of the regular season, Tampa Bay faces opponents that could very well be out of playoff contention, specifically the White Sox and Red Sox.  The Rays end the year playing the Indians, a team that is also in the Wild Card mix.

The Rays will also face fellow Wild Card contenders quite frequently, with nine games each against the Yankees and Blue Jays.

Landing David Price would have to take the offer of offers.

Since that’s unlikely, Tampa Bay simply shouldn’t see its biggest piece dealt away during a stretch like this.  That would be like prying away Dave Matthews from the Dave Matthews Band, while the band was on tour.

These Rays continue to play great baseball, and post the second-best gain since the last MLB Power Rankings at The Wife Hates Sports.  Tampa Bay gained 44 ratings points, second to division rival Toronto.  The top five winners since the last edition are:

Toronto Blue Jays: +46 points

Tampa Bay Rays: +44 points

Miami Marlins: +30 points

Washington Nationals: +16 points

Chicago White Sox: +16 points

Elsewhere, the Reds have really struggled, falling nine spots to 20th place in the latest rankings.  Cincinnati headlines this edition’s bottom five:

Cincinnati Reds: -55 points

Minnesota Twins: -31 points

Philadelphia Phillies: -20 points

Houston Astros: -19 points

Boston Red Sox: -17 points

The A’s maintain a large lead, while the Angels and Dodgers battle for second place.  The latest rankings are as follows, highlighting the clubs that had positive or negative jumps:

KP’s MLB Power Rankings: July 29, 2014

Note: Statistics and point totals as of Tuesday July 29, 2014 and do not include tonight’s games

1. Oakland Athletics (188 points) –Previously: #1 (+11) 

2. Los Angeles Angels (136 points) –Previously: #2 (-2)

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (120 points) –Previously: #3 (+3)

4. Washington Nationals (109 points) –Previously: #6 (+16)

5. Detroit Tigers (98 points) –Previously: #4 (-16)

6. Baltimore Orioles (97 points) –Previously: #5 (+1)

7. Milwaukee Brewers (87 points) –Previously: #8 (+11)

8. Toronto Blue Jays (77 points) –Previously: #15 (+46)

9. Atlanta Braves (73 points) –Previously: #10 (+7)

10. Seattle Mariners (72 points) –Previously: #7 (-15)

11. San Francisco Giants (64 points) –Previously: #9 (-4)

12. St. Louis Cardinals (59 points) –Previously: #12 (-4)

13. Pittsburgh Pirates (50 points) –Previously: #14 (+14)

14. Kansas City Royals (48 points) –Previously: #13 (-6)

15. Tampa Bay Rays (45 points) –Previously: #19 (+44)

16. New York Yankees (26 points) –Previously: #18 (+11)

17. Miami Marlins (18 points) –Previously: #21 (+30)

18. Cleveland Indians (18 points) –Previously: #17 (+1)

19. New York Mets (15 points) –Previously: #16 (-13)

20. Cincinnati Reds (11 points) –Previously: #11 (-55)

21. Chicago White Sox (3 points) –Previously: #22 (+16)

22. San Diego Padres (-28 points) –Previously: #25 (+10)

23. Arizona Diamondbacks (-30 points) –Previously: #27 (+9)

24. Boston Red Sox (-31 points) –Previously: #23 (-17)

25. Minnesota Twins (-35 points) –Previously: #20 (-31)

26. Philadelphia Phillies (-46 points) –Previously: #24 (-20)

27. Colorado Rockies (-53 points) –Previously: #26 (-15)

28. Chicago Cubs (-61 points) –Previously: #28 (-16)

29. Texas Rangers (-84 points) –Previously: #30 (-8)

30. Houston Astros (-94 points) –Previously: #29 (-19)

* All stats per MLB.com and ESPN.com

Note: RED = Falling 3+ spots from last week, GREEN = Rising 3+ spots from last week

The Wife Hates Sports MLB Power Rankings system has a method to its madness, attempting to be different and not just rank by popularity and record.  It mixes a secret formula of six completely different categories, meshed into a points system.  The categories don’t just include team results regarding record, but how each team has performed recently, as well as incorporating some statistics on both a team’s offense and pitching staff, too.