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Did the Tigers pay a lot for Price? Sure, but don’t get hung up on it

Aug 1, 2014, 10:34 AM EDT

Image (1) tigers%20logo%20old.gif for post 4853

Obviously the Tigers paid a lot for David Price. Drew Smyly is a really good pitcher who is either ignored or underrated outside of Detroit. Austin Jackson is having a down year, but he’s a legit starting center fielder who can hit in an age where such things are valuable commodities. Finally, the prospect they threw in — 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames — is supposed to be a good one and is already the youngest player at his level in the minors.

Some people in Tiger Land are a tad worried about all of this. One of them is Lynn Henning:

For that boost in a rotation’s firepower, the Tigers lost an effective, back-end starter in Drew Smyly, as well as center fielder Austin Jackson, who in past weeks has been playing the brand of baseball he has often delivered and all but promised to make a permanent part of his daily routine.

Most costly, the Tigers lost 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames, who was destined to be their top prospect in 2015 and who represents a potential coup for the Rays.

He is particularly concerned about Adames. And yes, it may hurt to see him blossom one day.

But who cares?

The Tigers are the ultimate win-now team. By the time Adames is ready to contribute to the Tigers — assuming he can get past either Eugenio Suarez or Jose Iglesias on the depth chart — the Tigers core will be lining up for the early bird special at some family restaurant in Florida. Brad Ausmus will be transforming from baseball’s most handsome manager to a dashing-but-graying Cary Grant figure. The owner, Mike Illitch, may be in the great pizza place in the sky. You don’t worry too much about tomorrow when everything that matters is today.

While Henning doesn’t play the “John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander” card, you have to assume it’s on his mind. And on the mind of Tigers fans. It has been for 27 years. But what everyone conveniently forgets about the Smoltz-Alexander trade was that it actually worked for the Tigers.

The Tigers wanted one thing and one thing only from that trade back in 1987: they wanted to win the AL East. And, despite trailing the Blue Jays by a game and a half on the day of that deal, they beat ‘em out thanks to Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA after coming over, including a must-win game against the Jays in game 160.  The Tigers wanted to make the playoffs. They traded off the promise of a prospect (though a not particularly well thought of prospect) in order to do it. Sure, they would have been better off with Smoltz for the next 20 years, but they were trading for 1987, and to a team like the 1987 Tigers — veteran-laden, in win-now mode — 1987 was all that mattered.

The same goes for the Cabrera-Scherzer-Verlander Tigers of 2014. David Price gives them what they think they need to win the World Series. If they do it, well, awesome. But even if they don’t, they are making a move that gives them a better chance to do so than keeping Willy Adames on the West Michigan Whitecaps does.

  1. jarathen - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    It’s certainly that kind of trade. On one hand, the Tigers already had a solid pitching staff and didn’t need to do be any kind of special to win baseball’s saddest division. But like you say, Craig, they’re trying to bring home a World Series now, before their window closes, and it’s hard to fault a team for trying to build an Aces-only rotation for October.

    • gigab0t - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Winning the division is one thing. Getting back to WS series…

      • gigab0t - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Yeah the World Series Series, you read it right

  2. Uncle Charlie - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    A #3 SP, a second tier OFer, and an unranked prospect. What a loss.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      Exactly. Adames has, since the start of the season, moved onto their Top 10 list, but he still wasn’t the Tigers’ No. 1. the fact that he’s taht high, even, probably says at least as much about the Tigers’ farm system as it does Adames.

      Again, Rays fans, stop hanging your hat on this guy. Take off the rose-colored glasses.

      That said, there’s no way the Tigers resign Scherzer now. So, you have Price as “all in” for this year and a year of padding against Max’s departure next year.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      Number three starters don’t just grow on trees, you know. Competent major leagers have amazing value.

      • Uncle Charlie - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        Yes so do lefty #1 SPs who dominate the AL East.

      • Uncle Charlie - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        BTW I really like Jackson, I think a good comp might be Brett Gardner. He’s a nice piece but not somebody a roster is built around. Same for Smyly. I think the Rays got good value and in terms of price per win they easily won this trade. They have two players for a total of what 6-8 years that each will contribute 2-4 WAR a season. But how you don’t get elite talent for 1.5 years of Price is beyond me. The Rays clearly went with a bird in the hand since they expect to contend next year.

      • Uncle Charlie - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        Damn it my brain has checked out for the weekend, Jackson is in Seattle.

  3. tigresnyc - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Um I think what worries Henning is the 18 years of laughable futility the Tigers went through after the win-now 1987 season

    • Kevin S. - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Not sure having John Smoltz really changes that. And if you don’t think the Tigers are going to have to pay the piper big time in a couple years, regardless of them trading away Smyly and Adames, you haven’t been paying attention.

  4. phillphan - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    So let me get this right. You constantly bring up Amaro making trades for Pence and Oswald as horrible mistakes when the Phillies were in a win now mode and now Detroit does it and were not supposed to get ungodly up on it? Which is it? Don’t answer. It’s called hypocrisy.

    • renaado - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Since when was the Phillies in a Win win NOW mode?

      • jfryman29 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:59 PM


        Hunter Pence
        Roy Oswalt
        Doc Halladay
        Cliff Lee
        Raul Ibanez

        Yeah, those were the moves that made them “Win Now”

    • Kevin S. - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Pence and Oswalt are not David Price.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        And who criticizes Amaro for the Pence/Oswalt deals? We’re criticizing Amaro for the Howard/Lee deals, and extending people for absurd amounts. Do people realize that Cliff Lee is going to cost the Phillies $37.5M next year, and he might be injured for a portion of it ($25M salary + $12.5M buyout for 2016). At a minimum, the Phillies will pay Lee $37.5M for 2015, or $52.5M total for 2015 and 2016!

      • stupidusername - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        “And who criticizes Amaro for the Pence/Oswalt deals?”

        For the Pence deal? Just this year there was talk about it. When Singleton came up, the talk about Domingo Santana and him not supposed to have been traded. Pence was a luxury they did not need to make the postseason… Really? The Cliff Lee deal is bad now that he got injured last night?

  5. indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    As a Rays fan, my initial knee jerk reaction to this trade was one of disappointment, but after some people I’m fairly sure don’t have a clue what they’re talking about dismissed this trade outright, I started looking at it more closely and felt better about it for the reasons you stated above. Drew Smyly is underrated, 25 yrs, and under control for 4.5 years. This Adames kid sounds good. Long ways from the majors, but he sounds promising.

    • jarathen - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      The Rays are always playing to win as best they can, and if it means they win a World Series someday, that’s fantastic. But they always have to be in that mode, whereas Detroit has the money to go all-in.

    • jacobmcbride1 - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      I believe Smyly has 3.5 years of control, this is his third full season in the MLB, and he is best used as a reliever not a starter which probably lowered his value

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Baseball-reference lists him as a free agent in 2019, arb eligible in 2015.

        The Rays obviously see him as a potential starter. They have a decent track record in developing young arms.

      • jwbiii - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        jacobmcbride, Not quite his third full season. He was called up a week into the 2012 season and then was optioned for three weeks, so he’ll be a little bit short of three years service time at the end of this season.

    • APBA Guy - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      I still don’t see this as a solid deal for the Rays. The benchmark is Wil Myers for James Shields. While Smyly is an MLB pitcher and Myers was a prospect at the time, he was such a can’t-miss that the risk was much lower. Price is arguably better than Shields was, so reasonably, the package for him should be better. I’m not sure what the Rays got grades out as better than Wil Myers.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        To be fair, the Royals over-paid for Shields, for which I’m happy.

      • timmmah10 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        Rays were burnt when so many pitchers became available, what should REALLY bother Rays fans is they got a decent package, but not a great one, for a guy that still has a year left on his contract.

        I think the Tigers aren’t just thinking win this year, but next as well. Their division is sure to be tough next season with upgrades to the Chisox, however, that all remains to be seen. 2016 is going to be a nightmare for the Tigers, one could assume. But again, this was a move to compete with the Angels and the A’s this year.

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        The Rays traded two pitchers, Shields and Davis, for Myers, Odorizzi, and still minor leaguers LHP Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard. I don’t know much about the progress of the latter two. Shields was still under two full years of control and Wade Davis is a decent pitcher. My benchmark is actually the Garza trade. For him, we got Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, Sam Fuld, C Chirinos (now with Rangers), and SS Hak-Ju Lee. That was a nice haul.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        Price was going to be moved before next season no matter what, and every Rays fan knew that much. He’s going to pull in around $20M next year, his final arbitration year, and the Rays just can’t afford that. Price liked Tampa but wasn’t going to sign a heavily discounted long term extension either (and no reason he should be expected to). The questions were how much the Rays could get for him and when. My beef with this deal is just that I think they could have done as well after the season and that I feel they still could have contended for the playoffs this season.

    • raysfan1 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      It may well turn out to be an okay deal in the long run. I still think they could have gotten an equivalent deal in the off season and thus asked for a bit more or just kept Price for now. This does save them some money though, and that is always a consideration for them.

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Besides winning, saving money is this organization’s primary goal. If only we hadn’t wasted money on Balfour and Bell. If only we hadn’t swooned in April, May, and early June. If only we weren’t 30th in the league in attendance. Oh well.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        I don’t think 30th in attendance is entirely unintentional though. They are trying to build political pressure for a new venue. Whereas so teams announce attendance based on tickets sold, the Rays only count fans who actually go through the turnstiles. They also scheduled 7 weekday day games at the Trop–if they were trying to maximize attendance, they wouldn’t do that. (There’s also a day game on Sep 1, but that’s a holiday.)

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Good point raysfan about purposely driving down attendance. I too have always suspected that it’s not in Sternberg’s best interest to have attendance improve. It’s kind of like the plot of Major League.

        (I’m in the bargaining phase of the stages of grief. I’m going to the Trop tonight. It’ll feel like a funeral. More so than normal.)

    • Paper Lions - Aug 1, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      If you deal Price, you should get a difference maker, right? They got a solid mid-rotation starter (his numbers are not nearly as good as a starter as they are as a reliever), a potential 2B of the future if he can figure out how to hit MLB pitching, and an 18 yr old SS that is doing fine in A-ball.

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:39 PM

        I didn’t say I was thrilled with the trade. I said I felt better about it.

  6. stupidusername - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    “But who cares?… The Tigers are the ultimate win-now team.”

    Said Phillies fans in 2010.

  7. wonkypenguin - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I think it is one of the great conundrums of MLB (in a fun way) that sometimes, you have to go for broke. Sure, you don’t want to sell your entire farm for it, but you also don’t want to Strasburg yourself right out of “we could win it this year” chances.

    Also if there is a baseball god, we will get an A’s/Tigers ALCS matchup and either of them versus the Dodgers in the World Series because it’s a pitcher’s era and I truly believe those series would be ones to remember.

    • jarathen - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      The only thing that annoys me here is that no one thinks the Angels can hang anymore. Or the O’s, for that matter. We know who the best four teams in the AL are, and any of them could go to the World Series.

      • sergioxjacques - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Only way Orioles have a chance is if Crush comes back to life and the Orioles bash their way into the playoffs. They’ll probably win the division and they are no doubt a very good team, but a playoff rotation of Tillman, Norris, Gausman, Jimenez, or whatever other slub they might run out there, isn’t getting the job done against any contender, let alone the A’s or Tigers.

      • geejon - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        @ jarathen … and along those lines you should have read how many Dodgers fans were whining that Colletti “gave the Tigers the W.S.” because he didn’t trade for Price. The same Price with a 5.00 lifetime ERA in the playoffs. Maybe he’ll be better, maybe he won’t. He guarantees no one anything.

        Personally im glad LA didn’t make that move. They keep all their top prospects, and this winter will have their choice of Scherzer, Lester or Jake Shields if they feel like it.

  8. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    As a Rays fan I can promise you this: you’ll enjoy David Price. Great player, great guy. I hope you’re able to extend him too because I’ll die if he went to the Yanks or Sox.

  9. 13arod - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    leeeroooyjeeenkiiins why in the world would price to go to red soxs lol

  10. philliesblow - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    One thing about Lynn Henning is that he is always hung up on prospects.

    He was worried about giving up Chance Ruffin, Francisco Martinez, Caspar Wells and the world famous Charlie Furbush to Seattle when the Tigers got Doug Fister.
    He was borderline suicidal when the Tigers gave up Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. I don’t think any Tiger fans miss any of those prospects.

    Even going back to the Cabrera trade when the Tigers gave up Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller plus others, I can’t remember any prospect the Tigers gave up that became more than an average at best major leaguer.

    Giving up a couple major leaguers in this deal is a little different for the Tigers, but Jackson is going to be a free agent after 2015 and Boras is his agent so there was little chance of him signing an extension. So giving up a year & 1/2 of Ajax, a suspect and back end starter for a year & 1/2 of Price is a deal for the Tigers.

    • frank433 - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      He also has started to push trading Ian Kinsler by next years trading deadline.

  11. yahmule - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    The people who keep saying others are underrating Drew Smyly are actually underrating David Price.

  12. mf44srq - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    The Tiger’s overpaid?!?!?! Seriously?!? Craig, you need to quit sniffing glue in the morning… Willy Adames MIGHT turn into something, but the Rays were willingly robbed… Anything short of an Oscar Tavaras type player in return is thievery… AAAUUUUGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Sincerely, Disgruntled Rays Fan

  13. indyralph - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Except that they gave up a 2-3 win pitcher and a 3 win CF for a 4.5 win pitcher, with a 1 win player filling in for the CF. It’s debatable whether they even got better this year. This assumes, of course, that Zips and Steamer are a better judge of talent than any of us (they are).

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      An average MLB player is 2 wins. Steamer actually predicts both Smyly and AJax will end up right around 2 wins this season, while Price is expected to be worth between 5.5 and 5.8.

      So Price should be worth nearly 2 wins more than both MLB players Detroit lost combined, while SOMEONE will end up playing CF for Detroit and hopefully providing some sort of positive value as well.

      Plus next year they can keep Price for another run at the WS, flip him for a package likely similar to what they game up, or make him a QO and get an extra draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

      This is a big win for Detroit and it doesn’t seem all that close.

      • indyralph - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        You are banking past performance in your assessment, which is not an indication of true talent, nor what Detroit should expect. Steamer has Jackson at 0.9 for the rest of the season, a 3 win player. They have Smyly as a 1.0 for the rest of the season, a 3 win player. The have Price at 1.2 wins for the rest of the season, a 3.6 win player. I was actually being generous and giving Pricing the higher Zips mark of 4.5, and Smyly the range of the two systems. Plus, Jackson and Smyly both would have been Tigers next year, for cheaper than Price, so the “there’s still next year argument” isn’t a great one either.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Let’s not debate projections too loudly. Let’s come back at the end of the year and see how it all goes. I simply see in AJax and Smyly two players that can be replaced, performance wise, relatively easily. The same can’t be said of Price. Sure, the Tigers will pay more money for Price, but that is not a concern of mine or anyone’s other than Illich and his people. On the field this move makes a ton of sense for this season and next. If it does not work, they could likely trade Price next season fo a similar haul to what they game up. So in a way they are now playing with house money here.

  14. corvetteman6 - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    This is perhaps the most ridiculous item I have ever read on this site
    The Tigers gave up a lot??
    This was theft, plain and simple. Current Rays players should feel betrayed
    Ray’s fans should feel stabbed in the back
    Gave up too much?? Do you people even know the game, or are you just pretending?
    Perhaps the Cardinals gave up too much. Perhaps the A’s
    This was theft. This was collusion

  15. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    For every Smoltz there are hundreds of highly ranked prospects who turn into nothing. And the farther they are away from the MLB level the greater their risk of flopping. Maybe the SS kid is a stud, and maybe he will fizzle at AAA.

    We know that Price:

    (a) is an ace at the MLB level
    (b) is under control next year, helping the Tigers with their potential Scherzer negotiations
    (c) could be flipped for a pretty nifty haul next season if the Tigers should flop.

    I think this is a great move for the Tigers, and an OK deal for the Rays.

  16. cyberbucs - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    the reason why the Rays didnt get the farm for Price is simple. He is signed through the end of 2015. There is no guarrantee he would sign an extention to the team he was traded to. Detroit my only have him this year and next year, and thats it.

    • corvetteman6 - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      Baloney. If that’s the case, how would you explain what Oakland gave up for Lester or in a more comparable sense, what the Cards gave up for Lackey??
      From all accounts, the Rays -were- asking a step price from all potential suitors right up until they somehow
      mysteriously caved for this schlock at the 11th hour
      Again, I would have a hard time being a Rays player right now and think my owners cared about winning now, or more pointedly, in the future. I’d have a hard time being asked as a fan to go down to the Trop and spending even a dollar
      And I’d have a hard time being either a competing GM or one who was negotiating for Price and then seeing this
      Ridiculous. Outrageous. You supply the adjective, but the guy was given away. The entire Red Sox approach to trades blows holes in your theory

  17. senotonom205 - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    I don’t think the Tigers are done either. I see a waiver claim for a CF in the near future and if that happens, it flips this trade in the Tigers favor even more. Jackson only has one more year of team control after this year. Price represents a replacement for when Max leaves next year, unless Illitch really goes crazy and tries to extend both Max and Price (I just don’t see that happening). This wasn’t only good for this year, but also good for next year as well.

    • senotonom205 - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Meant to say Waiver trade. Not claim.

  18. timmmah10 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Hard to say that the Tigers overpaid here, considering the price of top tier pitching at the deadline. Not to mention Price has another year on contract. This could patch up losing Sherzer, and I think the Tigers would be more willing to pay Price than Scherzer (although I don’t think it’s any sure thing they resign Price…)

    The Rays get a .280 hitting average pop OF that plays very good defense (most years) and a pitcher in Smyly that is really a 3rd or 4th at best. Adames is the only high upside guy in the bunch, and Nick Franklin has had multiple opportunities to seize a job in the bigs, but hasn’t panned out. Maybe he does, but panning out for him is still an average 2B. My thoughts on Prospects, especially from the Tigers organization, is their value is highest when they are young. Everyone has mentioned the guys they have traded away in the last decade that never panned out. I’m OK with moving guys like Adames that could be great or could be nothing.

    Huge win for the Tigers on paper here. If they don’t win a world series this year, it’s a steep decline over the next 5 years with Verlander and Miggy soaking up big money in their declining years… with little in the minor leagues coming up to save them with low salaries and high performance.

    I think this is the last hurrah for the Tigers.. and I hope it pans out… but we should be seeing some ugly Tiger teams towards the end of the decade.

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