DETROIT — Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski made another blockbuster trade for the Tigers on Thursday by acquiring Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price in a three-team trade. Getting Price wasn't going to come without giving up something of value, and in exchange for Price, the Tigers gave up Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson and minor league shortstop Willy Adames mid-game.
Jackson, who had been with the Tigers his entire major league career, took it graciously and said how much the fans' standing ovation meant to him, but he also said it wasn't easy for him to leave the field. "Once I saw Rajai (Davis) come to the top step, I pretty much knew what was going on," Jackson said. "It was kind of a sad moment. That last run off the field was pretty tough." (h/t Dana Wakiji, FOX Sports Detroit and Dana Gauruder, SportsXchange)
The former Tigers center fielder will wear number 16 for the Seattle Mariners. Jackson said he had spoken to Mariners coach and former Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon already, who is "pretty pumped up" to have Jackson join the team. Jackson said he and McClendon "have a good relationship" and is looking forward to another chapter in his career.
In the clubhouse after the game, Jackson acknowledged how much he appreciated what the Tigers had done for him throughout his career and said "we'll come back in a couple weeks, and hopefully we don't do too much damage."
Going to the Mariners, Jackson doesn't know many players on the roster. He won't be entirely alone, however. "I know (Robinson) Cano from my Yankee days," Jackson said. "I've joked around with him a bit. I'm looking forward to playing with him and getting to know the rest of the guys."
Former teammate Torii Hunter did his best to offer Jackson some words of encouragement, but even he admitted it was hard to see someone he was so close to being pulled from the field. "I told him it's nothing bad," Hunter said. "Those guys want you, a trade is actually good. Those guys want you to help them win and make that team better. Just go in there with a positive attitude and have some fun. When I saw Rajai (Davis) come on the field, I said, 'What are we doing, it's not the National League, there's no double switch. Then I saw him run into center and I'm like 'Oh no, he got traded.'"
For starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who has been with the Tigers organization from the start, hearing the news of being traded (Tampa Bay Rays) wasn't so easy to take. How he found out didn't offer any comfort. "I found out via social media, obviously, and then Dombrowski came in soon later and called me in and told me," Smyly said. "I had no idea that this was coming before I came out of the game today. I wasn't even really thinking about it."
"My parents and friends were blowing up my phone, saying ‘I think you're going to get traded.' I was, ‘I don't know what you're talking about.' Sure enough, 15 minutes later it happened. Dombrowski called me and told me. I get what they're trying to do, Price is outstanding, so hopefully it will help them."
The young left-hander has never been one to give long interviews or offer a flowery explanation, but this time Smyly was more at a loss for words than anything else. "It was unexpected, I didn't see it coming. I didn't want to leave here. These guys are awesome and we have a great team, a winning team, so it's hard to say goodbye."
Both on and off the field it was clear Smyly was emotional as he came to terms with the fact he'd been traded. While he's looking forward to this new part of his life, it's still a bittersweet moment. "Tampa is excited to have me, so I'm excited to be there. A team that wants you is always nice, but this is all I know, so it sucks leaving."
Hunter may be the veteran in the clubhouse, but that didn't help that he felt like he'd lost a member of the family. While Hunter has only been with the Tigers for two years, he's developed close bonds with every member of the team. Sometimes, however, that just makes it more difficult to say goodbye in a business that doesn't factor feelings into the equation.
"It wasn't a roller coaster," Hunter said. "It just went down, all your emotions and different things like that when you build relationships with guys. And I don't think people understand that we have relationships and we're friends, we're family. And to see one of our family members go, it's tough. We're human."
Justin Verlander said he was keeping an eye on Twitter and saw pieces of information floating in, but he didn't put it together until it actually happened. The last thing on his mind was who the Tigers had just acquired. "At that time, when Austin was coming off the field, you're not thinking who we traded for," Verlander said. "You know what is taking place because he's coming off the field. You're saying goodbye to your teammate one last time."
"It's tough to see someone go, but you look at the positives. We're bringing over a pitcher with quality stuff. I actually know David (Price) a little bit. He's a great guy. You talked about how great of a locker room guys Smyly and Jackson are, David is a good guy as well, so he'll fit into this locker room quite nicely."
Between the tears of family members learning about the trade, to feeling numb about no longer calling the Detroit Tigers their home, both Smyly and Jackson know that it's part of the business of baseball and are excited for a new challenge. Even if it isn't one they were hoping for.
Looking forward for the Tigers, both Verlander and Hunter offered some perspective once the dust of emotion had cleared. "As far as the business side of the game, David Price is a bulldog," Hunter said. "The next two months, he's going to push up, he's going to help us. He's going to push some other guys in the starting rotation as well. He's going to push us to get in the postseason and when he gets in the postseason, that dude's mindset is totally different. He's a bulldog, so I'm excited to have him. I hated facing him, so I'm going to enjoy watching him pitch."