Rays banking on youth's promise in new post-David Price world
JUL 31, 2014 10:30p ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Take a few deep breaths.
The whirlwind is over. The trade deadline rumors and by-the-second Twitter developments, the #HugWatch clues and parts of seven seasons that left-hander David Price threw fire from the mound while wearing a Tampa Bay Rays uniform ... all of it ended when his trade to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal became official at 5:31 p.m.
Price, no doubt, will be missed. There was a feel of "Well, most saw this coming," with the developments late Thursday afternoon. Still, it doesn't make them any less real. There was a certain shock and adrenaline rush that happened when his departure turned from could-be to this-is-now, just like what occurred with the trades of right-hander Matt Garza (Chicago Cubs) and right-hander James Shields (Kansas City Royals) transformed the Rays before him. Starting Friday, when players walk into a changed clubhouse at Tropicana Field before facing the Los Angeles Angels, the Rays must attempt to extend their new-found momentum. They will be without a trusted teammate and friend.
A different era starts now.
Early impressions: Left-hander Drew Smyly is no Price, and infielder Nick Franklin and shortstop Willy Adames must show they can work past the minors and be constant contributors in the majors, but the Rays aren't as worse off as some might expect without their ace.
Leave it to manager Joe Maddon, during a conference call in which he paid respect to the old (Price) and welcomed the new (the post-Price Three), to provide a fitting first impression.
On Smyly ...
"I've always liked him," he said. "He's got a really good arm. The fastball gets in the low-to-mid 90s on occasion. He's got a good breaking ball, changeup. He's kind of really interesting. He's very young."
On Franklin ...
"The guy has got some pop," he said. "A very good defender, plays a lot of infield positions. Kind of a Rays-type kind of a player."
On Adames ...
"Check this guy out," he said. "In A-ball -- youngest player in the Midwest League, I believe, and already has pretty significant numbers for that age. I think he's 6-(foot)-1, which is really good size. He's really intriguing to me."
This is how the Rays survive. In most cases, they flip proven and expensive talent for youth they can develop and mold. Smyly is 25 years old, Franklin is 23 and Adames is 18. The question of whether the Rays could have received better value for Price, entering his prime at age 28, either last winter or this upcoming offseason is debatable.
Sure, this trade lacks the firepower of the Wil Myers/James Shields deal in December 2012. But the current world is different than that night, and comparing the two would be like judging the 2012 version of LeBron James and the one that matured enough to understand a deeper meaning of returning home. All environments change with time.
"Obviously, it's different, and the world is different," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "Prospects are valued in a different way than they were a year ago, which is different than they were three years before that. It's a different world right now."
Different day, different time, different Rays. Each new acquisition must be given a chance to find their place within this new world for Tampa Bay.
Smyly can be studied soon, possibly as early as next Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. He's attractive, because A.) he's under team control for the next four seasons and B.) he can slide well into the middle of the Rays' rotation, behind staples like right-hander Alex Cobb and left-hander Matt Moore when the group is at full health. His addition helps fortify the Rays' rotation depth, an appeal for Friedman.
Franklin, meanwhile, is a phone call away from joining the Rays despite being optioned to Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay has coveted him for some time, and he could become a Ben Zobrist-like Swiss Army-knife player because of his versatility. He has hit .214 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI in 119 games in the majors, all with Seattle the past two seasons.
Adames is appealing because of his potential. Only 18 years old, he was the youngest position player in the Midwest League during his time with Class A West Michigan. He hit .269 with six home runs, 14 doubles, 12 triples and a .346 on-base percentage this season. MLB.com ranked him as the Tigers' No. 3 prospect. He'll report to Class A Bowling Green.
"For us to have a chance to sustain the success that we've had, those decisions have been critical," Friedman said of parting ways with key arms like Garza, Shields and Price. "So it's really important for us to ... have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. Because if not, you fall off the cliff, and to fall off the cliff means five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years of rebuilding."
That's what the Rays tried to do Thursday. Avoid a future fall. Avoid irrelevance, with the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees looking down from the top. It's part of their reality's pain with a payroll that stood at $81.53 million before dealing Price.
"It shouldn't be a surprise," Rays president Matt Silverman said of the day's developments.
Take a few deep breaths.
Respect the past and consider the future.
After all the trade deadline drama, after all the unknowns, life after Price must begin.