DETROIT — A "baby buzz" went to a loud explosion for the Tigers in the seventh inning of Thursday’s game.
President and general manager Dave Dombrowski hung up the phone and hurried to the clubhouse to relay the news that they had traded Austin Jackson to Seattle and Drew Smyly and shortstop prospect Willy Adames to Tampa for Rays ace David Price.
"Dave was right there in the dugout, and he’s on the phone with the commissioner’s office, and he’s screaming, ‘You’ve gotta get Austin off the field! You’ve gotta get Austin off the field!’" Max Scherzer said. "So it was a deadline deal."
It’s a deadline deal but one that involves people.
So naturally the Tigers had mixed feelings about the trade as it meant saying goodbye to guys they consider to be family.
Jackson said he knew when Rajai Davis came onto the field to take his place in center field that he was no longer a Tiger.
Jackson appreciated the fans’ standing ovation as he left the field wearing the Olde English D for the last time.
"It definitely meant a lot. This is where I started," Jackson said. "It was kind of weird because I knew what was happening, but at the same time, I was in a daze a little bit. I really wanted to go hug all my teammates, really. But it is one of those situations where you don’t know what to do. You’re just stuck."
Jackson will be welcomed by a familiar face as former Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is the Mariners’ manager.
"He’s pretty pumped up," Jackson said. "Me and him have a good relationship so I’m looking forward to getting back and working with him, and trying to help Seattle win."
Jackson and Scherzer had heard the rumors in the morning that the Tigers might be in on Price so they weren’t totally stunned.
"There was a baby buzz this morning that we were kind of in on it, just a baby," Scherzer said. "Nothing much was being said."
But Smyly hadn’t heard a thing.
"I didn’t even think it was a possibility, playing in the game, leading up," Smyly said. "I came out of the game, came back to my locker and my parents and a couple of my friends were kind of blowing my phone up, like, ‘I think you’re going to get traded,’" Smyly said. "And I was like, ‘What??? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And then, sure enough, about 15 minutes later, it happened. Dombrowski called me in and told me."
Smyly learned the hard way that baseball is a business.
"I didn’t want to leave," Smyly said. "I mean, these guys are awesome. We have a great team, a winning team.
"Tampa is excited to have me, so I’m excited to be there. A team that wants you is always nice, but this is all I know, so it sucks leaving."
There was a game that the Tigers lost to the White Sox, 7-4, but nobody was talking about that.
In the clubhouse, they were busy spending a few more moments with Jackson and Smyly before they left.
Don Kelly has been locker neighbors with Jackson since Jackson started with the Tigers in 2010.
"We’re going to miss him," Kelly said. "He’s been a staple of this team for the last however many years. We’re gonna miss him on the field, off the field, in the clubhouse. He’s a good dude."
Nick Castellanos got a chance to hug Jackson as he came off the field.
"Jackson is one of the guys I’m closest to in this locker room," Castellanos said. "I was in the same draft as Smyly. It sucks. But it’s also a slap in the face that you realize this is a business. All of us really can be gone so you just make the best of the time with the guys that you’re with."
Scherzer, who came to Detroit at the same time as Jackson and Phil Coke in the trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees, spoke for a lot of teammates with what he said.
"It’s real tough. Today stinks," Scherzer said. "We lose Smyly and Austin, and I know we’re getting David Price and he’s a great pitcher and everything. But in this moment, it stinks. You have to remember, we’re family in here. Austin and Smyly are part of this family, and we’re losing two of our guys."
Said Torii Hunter: "I don’t think people understand that we have relationships and we’re friends, we’re family. And to see one of our family members go, it’s tough. We’re human."
However, the Tigers are all aware that this is a business and this team is in the business of doing one thing.
"We’re going for it," Kelly said. "When you’ve got a pitching staff like that, Oakland just went and got some people, some starters. All the teams are building up to make a run at the postseason, the World Series. I think we’re no different."
Price, who won the Cy Young Award two years ago, joins two other Cy Young winners in Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Along with Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, they form a rotation second to none.
"I know what Price brings to the table, watching him pitch," Scherzer said. "He’s an unbelievable pitcher. It stings today, but (Friday) when we come to the park, I’m sure we’re all going to have huge smiles on our faces."
Although nothing is guaranteed, including a playoff berth, Price can help them get there.
"We have to get to the postseason first," Hunter said. "We’ve got these next two months and I think David Price is going to help us out. Once we get through these next two months, I think getting to the postseason, David Price is a bulldog. That was a great pickup for us."
It was a bittersweet day for the Tigers but if it pays off in October, it will all be worth it.