Three hundred and sixty four days after acquiring him minutes before the 2014 trading deadline, the Tigers are sending David Price to the Blue Jays. In return, they picked up Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt
Trading Price was an obvious call, and the two or so wins he’ll be worth down the stretch are extremely valuable to any team that fancies themselves playoff contenders. He’s a short term rental, so the Tigers weren’t going to get a top flight prospect back in any deal for the ace, but at first blush it appears like they did very well.
The key with this trade, as opposed to almost every other Tigers deal since the advent of this website, is that the Tigers had to make it. Price is a free agent after the season and the Tigers aren’t going to re-sign him. Their 2015 season is over. It’s the qualifying offer or a trade, and so it comes down to getting the highest offer for him before Friday at 4pm. This offer looks an awful lot like the best one they’d get.
But it being a good offer doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing, and that’s important. Price is a great pitcher, but the quantity of Price the Tigers are offering is limited. You only get a dozen or so of his starts, even if he is a top ten starter in baseball. Julio Urias wasn’t on the table. Corey Seager wasn’t either. The Tigers picked up players who will slot right in at the top of their system, but it’s a weak system and pitching prospects are scary.
Daniel Norris immediately becomes their most promising young starter, and I would imagine he’ll slot right into the MLB rotation. He’s a good prospect, but he’s had a problem issuing walks at just about every level. Purely going off the numbers, Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system only expects about 5 WAR through age 28. That’s just an estimate of course, but it’s an indication his minor league performance predicts less success than his prospect bona fides. He has the stuff to be an above average starter in the majors, but his delivery does create some command issues. The difference between a #2 and #5 starter is in the details, but it’s a worthwhile gamble for sure.
While Norris is about the stuff, Boyd is a more advanced pitcher with better command. I talked with a friend who works for a non-involved club who actually thinks Boyd is almost as good as Norris overall. He’s been great in the minors and is one of Carson Cistulli’s favorite guys, so that helps in a surprising way. I imagine he’ll be a New English D favorite before too long.
Labourt is more of the wild card. He gets up to 96 on the gun and has some seasoning left to do, but he’s still considered a prospect by Tigers standards. Don’t expect much, but keep an eye on him.
Put it together, and the Tigers did a nice job today. Not only did they just acquire their two best prospects, but they probably can move them to the rotation almost immediately, counting on them to be real contributors for 2016. When the dust settles, it’s Smyly-Jackson-Adames for a 6 WAR season of Price, and then Norris, Boyd, and Labourt. The Tigers might not have acquired more talent than they gave up a year ago, but they certainly acquired enough to make it totally worth it by every definition.
The Tigers aren’t close to done, but they’re off to a great start. We’ll obviously circle back on the full deadline once it’s over, but the Dombrowski and company just made one of the better trades of their tenure. It’s not Miguel Cabrera or Doug Fister, but it looks like a great move. Exciting times.