David Price, all-star pitcher, acquired by Jays
Toronto gives up pitcher prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt for David Price
When the Toronto Blue Jays could put ace Roy Halladay on the mound every fifth day, Alex Anthopoulos recalled then-general manager J.P. Ricciardi saying that alone made them a great team.
Already believing these Blue Jays are a good team, Anthopoulos on Thursday filled their biggest need by trading for star left-handed pitcher David Price. Left-handed pitching prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt went to the Detroit Tigers.
It didn't matter that the price was three prospects, including the top one in the organization, or that Price is a free agent after the season. Anthopoulos believes Price is the No. 1 starter Toronto hasn't had since Halladay.
"Getting guys like Price, that type of impact, those (No.) 1 starters, they can make you a great team all by themselves," Anthopoulos said at a news conference. "It's more a reflection on the belief of the guys we have right now, what we have on the roster. We think we're a good team, and adding a guy like Price we think makes us that much stronger and will give us a chance to win."
With the Blue Jays two games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild-card, they may suddenly be favourites to make the playoffs with Price. He is an all-star who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 29-year-old is 9-4 this season with a 2.53 earned-run average. In his major-league career, Price is 95-55 with a 3.13 ERA and 1,285 strikeouts in 1,367 1/3 innings, including a 7-0 record at Rogers Centre.
For the next two months Price headlines a rotation that includes R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada. He's on rotation to start as soon as Sunday against the Kansas City Royals but could also pitch Monday against the Twins.
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This trade came in the same week as the Blue Jays traded for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins. While Tulowitzki is signed to a long-term deal, Price is a rental player who will command a hefty salary this off-season.
Price, who was traded from the Rays to the Tigers at the deadline a year ago, is making US$19.75 million in the final year of his contract. Anthopoulos said was not yet dwelling on the possibility of re-signing Price, which could be a difficult task.
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"I think every team in baseball would love to have this guy on their team long term," he said. "We've just got to get in the line."
At face value, trading the organization's top prospect in Norris and two others makes it look like the Blue Jays are gunning to make this year the end of their playoff drought, which is the longest in North American professional sports.
"If anyone wants to know what it looks like to be all in, check out the Jays," Rays pitcher Chris Archer tweeted.
Anthopoulos, whose contract is up at the end of the season, bristled at the idea of being "all-in" because the club traded top prospects for a rental player in Price.
"I really dislike the term," he said. "I totally don't agree with it. I don't believe you ever operate that way. We're always focused on the short- and long-term."
In the short term, Price gives the Blue Jays the spark they were lacking at last year's trade deadline. Slugger Jose Bautista lamented a lack of moves at the time, and Toronto missed the playoffs.
Now that the Blue Jays have gotten Tulowitzki, Hawkins and Price, Bautista's reaction was much different.
"I did get a text from Jose Bautista with just, 'Is it true?"' Anthopoulos said. "I said yes, and he just wrote yes with about a million exclamation marks."
That could almost sum up Anthopoulos's reaction, too, when Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him late Wednesday afternoon that he was ready to trade Price. Negotiations took only a few hours because the Blue Jays had the guy they wanted.
"He almost was not available this trade deadline," Anthopoulos said. "These type of players, the great superstar players, rarely become available. We had an opportunity to do it."
After strengthening the best offence in baseball by adding Tulowitzki, getting Price immediately helps a team that has struggled with pitching. Another move or two could be coming, but this fills the Blue Jays' biggest need.
"I think we all feel like we're better than what we've shown so far. And this is a move that makes the club stronger," Anthopoulos said. "I think everyone's got an opportunity to get hot, and that's what we're going to need. At this point, we're trying to give ourselves the best opportunity to get in the playoffs."
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