No nation was ever ruined by trade.
David Price was the trade deadline acquisition to beat all trade acquisitions on the surface.
What more could a team want? A former Cy Young Award winner smack in his prime. A pitcher with big game experience who can be counted on to pitch deep into most games where he takes the hill. A southpaw with extreme physical gifts which enable him to appear to be cruising more often than not.
It certainly looked as though Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had once again operated like a sleek stealth bomber and shocked the baseball world by adding another ace pitcher to his deep stockpile of wonderful starting arms.
Even the deal itself was consummated in crazy and memorable fashion. With the Tigers losing to the White Sox as the clock ticked down to the deadline, Dombrowski took the rare occasion to show up in the dugout during a game. His purpose was to alert rookie manager Brad Ausmus to get Austin Jackson off the field immediately, or else the trade could possibly get nixed. Jackson was getting shipped to Seattle as part of the three team deal. It was an emotional moment as Jackson trotted off the field mid-inning, one that few Tigers fans will forget.
Jackson, a Tigers stalwart, was getting sent off along with that day's starting pitcher Drew Smyly. Smyly was heading to Tampa with prospect Willy Adames in return for Price. It ended a dizzying afternoon rife with rumor and innuendo. Remember the "fake Ken Rosenthal" tweet early that day setting twitter ablaze with buzz the Tigers had acquired Price and Ben Zobrist? Little did we know the foreshadowing that hoax gave us.
The Tigers paid a stiff bill to get Price. Did they get their money's worth?
The 2014 Campaign (Detroit only)
Patience was a virtue for Tigers fans after the trade as they eagerly waited to see Price toe the rubber for the Tigers. Acquired on a Thursday, he would not take the hill until the following Tuesday to see a familiar nemesis: the New York Yankees.
Price would yield a homer to Yankees catcher Brian McCann. This was a recurring issue in 2014 as McCann "owned" Price with three home runs in 12 at-bats. Price allowed three runs in 8.2 innings on the evening. He would fan 10 while walking nary a batter. It was a very solid initial start in a Tigers uniform. However, the club's work was not done that night. The game went to extra innings. It was the Tigers much-maligned bullpen holding the Yankees in check until Alex Avila saved the day with a 12th inning homer to give the Tigers a 4-3 win.
Price would face another AL East foe in his second Detroit start. He would start the 19-inning, tooth-pulling marathon loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Price only could manage six innings, allowing four runs. This unknowingly put a major onus on the Tigers bullpen to last deep into the game.
The new Tiger would then alternate throughout much of the stretch drive from a good-to-great start followed by lackluster outings. There was the rousing Comerica Park debut victory over the Mariners and King Felix followed by utterly dominating his old mates in Tampa only to see the Tigers get shutout in a 1-0 loss. Those two great starts were followed by the head-scratching disaster against the Yankees in Detroit.
Price would the go "good start/bad start" in order over his next five turns in the rotation. These would lead to his biggest game as a Tiger. He would face the Twins in Game 162 with the Tigers clutching a one-game lead over the Royals with the AL Central crown in the balance.
It was a tight one. Ian Kinsler homered in the third inning to give Price a 1-0 cushion. Price took it from there. He had Twins batters off-balance all day and only once allowed two runners on base at the same time. Price would pitch into the eighth. He allowed no runs on four hits, struck out eight, and walked two. His gem was finally backed as the Tigers would plate two insurance runs to finally chase Gibson. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan made the 3-0 lead hold up. With much thanks to Price on the day, the Tigers had secured a fourth consecutive AL Central crown.
Expectations on Price were really high. He would have had to plow through his 11 starts in Sandy Koufax fashion in order to fully deliver on the what many were hoping to see. He wasn't quite "enigmatic" in his stint in Detroit, it was better than that. But he had some really shaky moments mixed in with several games of brilliance. There was a definite "which Price will we see tonight" feeling at times. His rare abilities also gave each start the feel of an "event" not to be missed as well.
Price gave the Tigers an average of just over seven innings per start good for an ERA of 3.59 in 77 2/3 innings. However it should be noted that his FIP during that stretch was a nifty 2.44. He was good overall, but his bad outings were bad enough to leave some lasting impressions that might override the good that he contributed.
Game 162 was a keeper, however. He had the season on the line and showed why he was obtained. Price would pitch well in his playoff start against the Orioles only to be outdone by a Nelson Cruz homer that travelled the bare minimum distance needed to clear the fence at Comerica.
Was it the right move? Acquiring Price helped the Tigers win the division. It didn't secure a World Championship. Price is still slated to be a Tiger for one more season.
In the end, the Tigers aimed high. They didn't take a chance on a "wish sandwich" type of talent to bring aboard. They went out and got the best available talent. The result may have been tepid, but the plan was probably acceptable.