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Tigers trade rumors: The cost of trading or keeping David Price

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What will the Tigers' starting rotation ERA look like if David Price is traded at the deadline? What if he stays? Here are a few scenarios.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline looming, and with David Price almost certainly going elsewhere for the 2016 season and beyond, the obvious play that David Dombrowski has to make is to trade David Price before July 31 and try to maximize his return value. Right? I mean, you can't really let David Price walk away and only get a draft pick in return for that monster arm, can you? Honestly, with the way this crazy season has gone, who even knows anymore? But if the Tigers were to trade David Price, what would that do to the starting rotation? Here's a quick peek at how those numbers might turn out.

The Tigers' starting rotation currently has an ERA of 4.51, worse than every other team in the American League except for the Red Sox. If we scrub out the odd collection of starts turned in by Kyle Lobstein, Buck Farmer, Alex Wilson, Kyle Ryan, and your own kitchen sink, the team ERA under the standard five starters sits at 4.36:

Pitcher ERA
Price 2.31
Sanchez 4.59
Verlander 5.57
Simon 4.46
Greene 6.72
Total 4.36

It's not a great team ERA as it stands, but even now it's only as low as it is because of David Price's numbers. Remove him from the picture, and the remaining four starters look like this:

Pitcher ERA
Sanchez 4.59
Verlander 5.57
Simon 4.46
Greene 6.72
Total 5.14

Obviously, the team would never just trade David Price away and try to get by on a four-man rotation, so this adjusted ERA is not a realistic final result, but it does make you appreciate how much Price is doing right now to keep the Tigers from taking up permanent residency in the AL Central basement.

So what happens if you take David Price out of the rotation and replace him with a league average pitcher? Baseball Reference lists the average pitcher's numbers at 180 innings pitched and 77 earned runs, for an average ERA of 3.85. Using those numbers, we get this:

Pitcher ERA
League Avg Pitcher 3.85
Sanchez 4.59
Verlander 5.57
Simon 4.46
Greene 6.72
Total 4.71

That's not as bad as a four-man rotation without Price, but it's also worse than the current rotation. If the Tigers went this route, the 2015 season would be a lost cause, and they would have some serious work to do in the offseason to get that starting rotation back on track.

Another alternative is to keep David Price and try to pick up a decent long-term fifth starter to replace Shane Greene in the rotation. Using the average league pitcher's numbers again, here's what that would look like:

Pitcher ERA
Price 2.31
Sanchez 4.59
Verlander 5.57
Simon 4.46
League Avg Pitcher 3.85
Total 3.89

That's a major improvement, and it also underscores how badly the team needs even a replacement-level starter right now, because no one in the rotation outside of David Price is pitching even that well.

To push the hypothetical scenario even further, what if the Tigers were to acquire two replacement-level starters to take both Simon and Greene out of the rotation? We would get this:

Pitcher ERA
Price 2.31
Sanchez 4.59
Verlander 5.57
League Avg Pitcher 3.85
League Avg Pitcher 3.85
Total 3.78

To round out this little number-crunching exercise, let's add in the team's average number of runs scored per game (currently 4.49) to balance against the starting rotation's ERA, and get a rough idea of how this would translate into win percentage for each of these scenarios:

Scenario ERA Estimated Win %
Current rotation 4.36 .507
Trade Price for Lg Avg Starter 4.71 .488
Price plus Lg Avg Starter 3.89 .536
Price plus two Lg Avg Starters 3.78 .543

Keep in mind that all of those win percentage numbers are slightly higher than reality, because the current bullpen is driving up the actual number of runs allowed per game higher than the starting rotation's collective ERA.

So now what? I have no idea, but with July 31 just days away, one way or the other the answer will be coming soon.