After I spent all afternoon on Twitter doubting the Tigers’ chances of getting David Price, the Tigers did, indeed, get David Price. A few thoughts on what that means for the team both now and in the future:
1. Max Scherzer is gone next year. I think this was true no matter what, but the Price trade essentially confirms it. Price is a Tiger through 2015, and don’t be surprised if they offer him Scherzer money to keep him around long term, especially if he acquits himself well in these next two months. The Tigers won’t be able to afford another $200 million pitcher this winter, and that’s what Scherzer is – he certainly hasn’t done anything to hurt his value.
2. The Tigers parted with a fair amount of value, but not really top value. It looks less and less likely that Austin Jackson will become the .300/20 homer/30 steal guy they might have envisioned when he arrived from New York at age 23. He’s 27 now – just entering his prime – but his power is down and he’s having his worst offensive season since 2011. Is Jackson valuable? Plenty, and I suspect they’ll miss his defense more than many realize. But it seems unlikely that he’s ever going to become much more than what he already is. Drew Smyly is younger and has more room to grow, but his ceiling is as a mid-rotation guy, albeit a rather advanced one. Young, cost-controlled lefty starters are valuable – the Rays definitely know that – but when you can flip one for David Price, you do it.
3. The Tigers have the best rotation in the AL again. At least, I’d argue so, and I think it becomes a definite if Justin Verlander can figure out how to pitch again, whether his struggles are a byproduct of post-surgery weakness or otherwise. They’ll inevitably be compared with Oakland right up to the postseason, and this is not meant to discount the Lester/Samardzija/Kazmir/Gray foursome. But theoretically, right now, if you only account for 2014 performance, Justin Verlander is the number five starter. And that’s really something. (Playoff relief ace, anyone?)
4. The Tigers’ pending outfield logjam has been solved. The team still seems to think Andy Dirks can contribute, and we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, but if Dirks does come back soon, the Tigers were going to be facing a serious playing time issue between him, Rajai Davis, Jackson, Torii Hunter, and J.D. Martinez. Jackson’s departure solves things pretty easily, and also – at least for now – brings Ezequiel Carrera into the mix. Carrera is having a fine season at Toledo but his MLB numbers aren’t overwhelming. That said, the Tigers did make it to a World Series with Quintin Berry playing regularly against righties, so they can probably drag Carrera along and hope he can get on base a few times and utilize his speed. The move sets up a center field platoon between Carrera and Davis and allows J.D. Martinez to play every day in left, which probably leaves the team weaker up the middle, but such is the price you pay (no pun intended).
5. It’s win now at all costs. The window is closing, and while Dave Dombrowski is fully capable of keeping it wedged open for a few more years with some astute moves and the support of Mike Ilitch’s pocketbook, Cabrera, Verlander, and Victor Martinez aren’t getting any younger and Scherzer’s gone after this season. The farm system is in awful shape, but at this point, given the moves they’ve made and the position they’re in, there’s little use in clinging to mid-tier prospects like Willy Adames when you can use them to make a clear upgrade. The Tigers are a better team now than they were yesterday, and Dombrowski deserves piles of credit for turning what’s left of his farm system into a legitimate ace in David Price and an excellent reliever in Joakim Soria (and mark my words, Soria will come good).
Seriously, do we grasp how good David Price is? He throws mid-90s from the left side, he eats innings, he doesn’t walk many at all, he gets strikeouts, and his WHIP is under 1.1. The only knock is that he’s been a bit homer prone this year but that’s out of the ordinary for him. He’s an unquestioned ace.
The Tigers are all-in for 2014. Their bullpen is still a huge concern, but they’ll be hoping their rotation can put them in a position where it won’t matter that much.