DETROIT — There are so many ramifications to "The Trade" that brought David Price to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday afternoon that an index could be required to keep them all straight.
First and foremost, this was the last hand played in a high-stakes ALCS poker game between Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.
Beane obtained Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester recently to go with All-Star Scott Kazmir and perhaps the best young pitcher in baseball, Sonny Gray. Every one of those gems has an earned run average of 2.92 or lower. That is a phenomenal accumulation of stingy pitching.
Getting Price from the Tampa Bay Rays allowed Dombrowski to match and perhaps surpass Oakland’s four-man playoff rotation.
Detroit now has the last three Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander (2011), Price (2012) and Max Scherzer (2013). It’s a "Murderers’ Row" of pitchers, and a "Big Three" as good as any since the Atlanta Braves were rolling out Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine with future Cooperstown cohort John Smoltz. That is, if Verlander can regain his old touch.
The Tigers also have Anibal Sanchez, who lead the AL with a 2.57 ERA last year, and likely will be sending 12-game winner Rick Porcello and his 3.24 ERA to the bullpen for the postseason. That is unless Detroit opts to send Verlander (9-9, 4.79 ERA) there. He’s been easily the least effective of the five pitchers now in their rotation.
So, this deal will bring about plenty of intrigue.
But do you want to know what might be the most interesting angle of all about this trade? It just could be what will happen immediately after either Oakland or Detroit wins the World Series.
And that will be playing Price against Scherzer to likely assure keeping one of them.
Dombrowski will have Price under control through 2015. He will be paid a pro-rated portion of the $14 million he’s making in 2014 and be eligible for arbitration next season before becoming a free agent in 2016.
Signing Price to a long-term deal in the offseason will become Dombrowski’s top priority. That is unless Scherzer really isn’t the goner everyone thinks he will be — going home to St. Louis or taking $200 million from the pitching-desperate New York Yankees.
And if Scherzer — who turned down six years at $144 million in spring training — were to sign a multi-year deal to stay in Detroit, then it has both him and Price next season.
It’s hard to believe Tigers owner Mike Ilitch would open up his money vault enough to sign both of those pitchers into the 2020 vicinity. But who’s to say? It’s just that having Miguel Cabrera and Verlander with two of the game’s richest contracts over the rest of this decade makes it seem unlikely.
What made Price, 28, worth trading hot-hitting center fielder Austin Jackson, fifth starter Drew Smyly (6-9, 3.93 ERA) and shortstop prospect Willy Adames for in a three-team deal with the Seattle Mariners?
Well, he was 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 2012. And he’s the player most responsible for turning the Rays from laughingstocks into perennial contenders, going 82-47 with a 3.18 ERA.
Price is 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA that will be the lowest among Tigers rotation members when he makes his first start, which likely will come Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. How’s that for finding the spotlight your first time out with a new team?
Price also leads the AL with 189 strikeouts, 23 starts and 170 2/3 innings pitched. And his 10.0 strikeouts and only 1.2 walks per nine innings this year is an amazing combo.
But he isn’t without warts. Price is 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA in the postseason and leads the AL with 20 homers surrendered in 2014.
Jackson will go to Seattle in the three-team deal, and be reunited with manager Lloyd McClendon. How will he be replaced?
I think Rajai Davis, who was having trouble cracking the starting lineup despite batting .294 with 25 steals, will get some starts there. So will Ezequiel Carrera, who was recalled from Toledo after Thursday’s game.
Carrera, 27, has spent what amounts to just over one year in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians. He batted .251 with little power, but is hitting .307 with 43 stolen bases for the Mud Hens.
And he’s a great defender. He made a catch in spring training for the Tigers that I don’t believe Mike Trout could’ve reached. Speed and defense don’t go into slumps, but he’ll have to hit enough to stay in the lineup.
Detroit also gave up an 18-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic who had become a top prospect. Adames, who goes to Tampa Bay with Smyly, is batting .269 with 14 doubles, 12 triples, six homers and 50 RBI for Class A West Michigan. It will be three years before anyone begins to know whether he will be a forgotten name in this big trade or an overlooked central component.
The Tigers also must replace Smyly as the prime lefty in the pen come playoff time. Might that job go to fast-rising rookie Blaine Hardy or will Phil Coke claim it once again? Perhaps there’s a waiver deal coming in the month ahead for a left-handed reliever.
There’s plenty to play out as a result of this deal.
But one thing’s for sure.
It was made because, in the words of Dombrowski, "We’ve got to step it up a notch."