Updates from Tuesday, August 5
Joe Gumm of WTSP in Tampa Bay reported that Price took out a full-page ad thanking Rays fans for their support in the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday:
David Price, often cited alongside Evan Longoria as the two cornerstones in the Tampa Bay Rays' rise from the basement to the top of the AL East, is headed to Detroit. The Rays traded Price to the Tigers in a three-team deal on Thursday, with the paperwork being filed just before MLB's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.
The Tigers made the deal official:
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the news:
Source: #Tigers get Price.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2014
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times quickly followed with more on the deal:
#Rays will be getting 1 or 2 major-leaguers back in the 3-team deal involving Price— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 31, 2014
Matthew Mowery of The Oakland Press has more on the dialogue between the Rays and Tigers:
DD said the subject of the price trade had been broached with Rays about 10 days ago, but was still dormant as of this a.m.— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 31, 2014
Topkin reported Price's thoughts on the deal:
"It's tough to put into words,'' he said. "There's absolute sadness. This is where I've been the last seven years.''
Price said he did not expect the Tigers to be a potential destination — "It happened fast and unexpectedly' — but he was confident he could adjust to "a new chapter" in his life. "I'm still playing baseball ... which is what I know and what I love,'' he said.
The Tigers come to the Trop Aug. 19-21, and Price could end up pitching against his old mates. "That'd be crazy,'' he said. "That'd be cool.''
Topkin also has thoughts from Tampa Bay's front office:
#Rays Sternberg in release: “These are difficult decisions we are forced to confront." (more)— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 31, 2014
More Sternberg: "Our fans have come to understand that reality, just as our organization has learned to operate with the challenges (more) "— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 31, 2014
More #Rays Sternberg: "posed by the economic model and the growing disparity in our sport.”— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 31, 2014
#Rays Friedman: "We still feel like we have a team that should be able to compete.:— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 31, 2014
In addition to the prospects sent to Tampa Bay, the Rays also landed Tigers left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly. The deal also included the Seattle Mariners, who got Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson.
Smyly Tweeted after the move:
Thanks to the Tigers organization and fans for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams! Looking forward to the next chapter!— Drew Smyly (@SmylyD) August 1, 2014
Thursday's trade culminates more than a year of "will they or won't they" for Tampa Bay.
With Price arbitration eligible for only one more season—and due for a massive contract when he hits the market—many viewed his July exit as an inevitability as the Rays scuffled to start the season. But an excellent July and the continued struggles of the AL East gave some hope that the team would wait until winter with hopes of making one more World Series push.
Then the market started heating up.
The Cubs and Red Sox in particular saw excellent hauls in trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and John Lackey and Jon Lester, respectively. After Boston pulled the trigger on a Lester trade that brought back All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the Rays ramped their own efforts for a similar return.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Pirates, Dodgers, Mariners and Tigers all had contact with the Rays on Thursday.
Bleacher Report's Scott Miller reports more on another potential suitor:
Price, 28, is in the midst of another outstanding season. He joins Detroit with a 11-8 record, 3.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. After years of seeing his strikeout rate slowly drop, the lefty if fanning more than a batter per inning for the first time in his career. With the small-market Rays having little chance of retaining someone of his caliber in free agency, general manager Andrew Friedman saw the buyer's market and took advantage of his remaining leverage.
Friedman has continually restocked the farm system by acquiring other teams' top prospects. Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers came over in the James Shields trade in 2012 and Chris Archer was part of the 2011 Matt Garza deal with the Cubs.
"I think, in a lot of ways, it's our only chance for success," Friedman told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. "The trades that we've made, looking back, the only reason we got good players in return is because we traded really good players. And so it's important for us to know what our weaknesses are and what our limitations are and operate within them."
Even if the next crop of prospects join Archer and Myers as integral pieces, it's still tough to move a homegrown talent like Price. He was the Rays' No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, and has rewritten the club record book en route to becoming one of the most respected pitchers in baseball.
Price is the Rays' all-time leader in ERA, WHIP and winning percentage. He's second behind only Shields on the club's all-time wins leaderboard. In 2012, he became the first player in Tampa Bay history to win a major postseason award, taking home the Cy Young. Couple that with his four All-Star team honors, and you'll have a tough time finding a player who has meant more to a franchise since Price's debut.
In typical Rays fashion, they're probably striking at the perfect time. Price would not have nearly the same value with only one year of team control. The Rays also watched on last winter when teams chose to chase free agents over offering a massive prospects package for their ace. With more teams than ever in the playoff race, the market created a perfect storm.
Still, we're talking about David Price.
Despite losing more than two miles per hour off his fastball in the past two seasons, per FanGraphs, he's found a way to stay on top of his game. He pitched to contact a ton in 2013, but has learned how to miss bats by becoming perhaps the baseball's best control pitcher.
Price is walking only 1.21 batters per nine innings, a rate that only makes his strikeout total all the more impressive. When he put up a similarly low number last season, it was possible to theorize a mindset change from his early career. It turns out Price has learned to navigate the best of both worlds—something he and his representation will surely highlight when it's time for contract negotiations.
Some of his peripheral numbers even suggest he was getting a bit unlucky this season in Tampa. It's possible that he becomes the single-best player to exchange hands at the deadline since C.C. Sabathia in 2008.
Either way, this is a necessary evil for both sides. Detroit walks away having lost elite young prospects, while the Rays say goodbye to one of their franchise cornerstones.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter