When David Price was finally traded, it was to an unexpected bidder.
The Detroit Tigers added another Cy Young Award winner to their star-studded rotation, acquiring Price from Tampa Bay in a blockbuster deal Thursday. The Rays received left-hander Drew Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames from the Tigers. Tampa Bay also got infielder Nick Franklin from Seattle, with Detroit outfielder Austin Jackson going to the Mariners.
The AL Central-leading Tigers are trying for their fourth consecutive division title, and their starting rotation was already a strength. General manager Dave Dombrowski decided to trade for Price anyway, giving Detroit a collection of stars on the mound that could be tough to match in any post-season series.
"The question that we asked ourselves is: 'What gives us the best chance of winning the world championship this year'?" Dombrowski said. "We thought adding him to our rotation at this point would give us the best chance to do that."
The deal came just hours after the Oakland Athletics got an ace of their own, Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox.
Price joins Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the Detroit rotation, giving the Tigers the last three American League Cy Young winners.
The Tigers are the first team with three pitchers on the staff who have all won Cy Young Awards over the previous three seasons, according to STATS.
"Today it's great, it's nice, it's fine. I love to have David Price," Dombrowski said. "If we win, then I'll be very satisfied."
Jackson was removed from Detroit's game against the Chicago White Sox with one out in the top of the seventh inning. As he jogged in from centre field, he got a nice hand from the home fans, many of whom no doubt understood the significance of the substitution moments before the trade deadline.
Price's departure became a clear possibility when the Rays fell way behind in the AL East race earlier this season. Tampa Bay has played much better over the last month and entered Thursday only 5 1/2 games behind a wild card — but the Rays decided to deal their ace anyway.
"Compared to the other possibilities, it was by far the most prudent thing that we could do for the best interests of the franchise," said Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's vice-president of baseball operations. "If you look ahead to next year, it would have been really challenging to be as good as we want to be within our situation, with David taking up that meaningful of a percentage of our payroll. So everything we do is in the vein of how to be competitive in the near term and also the long term."
Tweeted Rays manager Joe Maddon: "No fun losing a David Price. Hate it. But we have to do what is best for our group. Continue to move it forward and that's what we've done."
Tampa Bay signed Price to a $14 million deal for this season, avoiding arbitration, but he isn't eligible for free agency until after next season. That means Detroit's rotation — which also includes Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello — should be impressive in 2015 even if Scherzer leaves via free agency this off-season.