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Numbers Game: Tigers deal for David Price

Scott Cullen
7/31/2014 6:14:34 PM
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The Detroit Tigers made a huge splash on deadline day, making a deal to acquire David Price from Tampa Bay.

Numbers Game looks at the Tigers getting Price, the Mariners getting Austin Jackson and the Rays hoping for the future.

The Tigers Get: LHP David Price.

Price, 28, is one of the premier pitchers in baseball, ranked fifth in Fan Graphs WAR (21.1 WAR) over the past five seasons. The 2012 Cy Young winner, and 2010 Cy Young runner-up, Price has been good this season, going 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with an MLB-leading 189 strikeouts in 170 2/3 IP.

While that's a strong season overall, and he's ranked ninth among starting pitchers in the TSN.ca Player Rankings, Price has been sensational over the past couple months, coinciding with the Rays' turnaround as a team. Since the beginning of June, a period covering 11 starts, Price has a 1.98 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP, striking out 99 in 86 1/3 IP.

Over the past couple seasons, Price has taken complete command of his pitches, cutting his walks per nine dramatically, to the point that he's allowed the fewest walks per nine innings among qualified starters; not bad for the league leader in strikeouts. He is generating more swinging strikes than ever before, with more swinging strikes on pitches outside the zone. Credit his cutter for that.

In addition to that, he's been a little unlucky, allowing a career-high .301 batting average on balls in play, with a career-high 11.2% of his flyballs allowed going for home runs. Those rates are not wildly out of line but, as the worst marks of his career, it's not unreasonable to expect Price to get some better luck.

The short version of all these numbers is that Price is great, a staff ace, and he'll lead the Tigers' rotation down the stretch and in the postseason.

While Price is making $14-million this season, he's arbitration-eligible next year and a free agent the year after. That means the Tigers have stabilized their starting rotation beyond this season. With Max Scherzer set to become a free agent at season's end and Justin Verlander going through a terrible season, the addition of Price not only thrusts the Tigers into the World Series picture this season, but gives them an ace around which to build next season if Scherzer walks.

The Mariners Get: CF Austin Jackson.

Jackson is a 27-year-old centre fielder who is an adequate offensive player, a career .277 hitter with a .755 OPS, who is a little below those marks this season, hitting .270 with a .727 OPS.

Jackson runs a bit (78 SB on 106 attempts in his career; nine for 13 this year) and was a strong defensive player in his first three seasons, but his numbers are sliding in that respect, posting a career-low Ultimate Zone Rating this season, with no Defensive Runs Saved. In 2011, he had 29 Defensive Runs Saved.

Even if the overall production is decent -- and Jackson is ranked 12th among centre fielders in the TSN.ca Player Rankings -- that's more than enough to be an upgrade for the Mariners, who have been playing rookie James Jones, and his .600 OPS, in centre field. For a team harbouring playoff aspirations, and three games out of a playoff spot currently, Jackson offers a legitimate major league option in centre field.

Individually, Jackson is looking at losing some numbers, most likely, because Safeco Field is often the place where offensive stats go to die, but he can still produce more than Jones.

Making $6-million this season, Jackson is arbitration-eligible in the offseason, but isn't producing so much that he should price himself out of range for the Mariners. Jackson is not a thrilling addition for the Mariners, but a solid pro and that gives Seattle a better chance at the playoffs, which they haven't reached since 2001.

The Rays Get: LHP Drew Smyly, 2B Nick Franklin and SS Willy Adames.

Smyly, 25, is a lefty who returned to the Tigers' rotation this season after spending 2013 in the bullpen. In 20 games (17 starts), he's 6-9 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, recording 87 strikeouts in 100 1/3 IP. Those are respectable numbers, certainly worthy of a regular turn in a major league rotation, but it's also less than encouraging that Smyly's average fastball velocity is already down to 89.8 MPH this season, after he was at 91.6 MPH two seasons ago.

Fortunately, Smyly has been having success with his curve ball and is throwing it much more frequently as a result.

Smyly isn't going to make anyone forget David Price, but he's inexpensive ($520,000 this season) and under team control, so he can fill a spot in the rotation cheaply, allowing the Rays to spend a little more elsewhere.

Coming from the Mariners, 23-year-old Nick Franklin has a chance to be a pretty good player for the Rays. A first-round pick in 2009, Franklin has struggled in the majors, hitting .214 with a .649 OPS in 114 career games (hitting .128 with a .363 OPS in 17 games this year), but he's shown, in the minors, that he can hit, putting up a .281 average and .815 OPS, hitting 20 homers and stealing 19 bases, in 178 games at Triple-A.

That doesn't guarantee that Franklin will be an everyday player in the bigs -- and there's reason to doubt his future with 21 strikeouts in 47 at-bats with the Mariners this year -- but he's worthwhile prospect to have going forward, potentially as a replacement for Ben Zobrist at second base.

Adames is supposed to the prize of this deal for the Rays, as an 18-year-old playing A ball, the youngest player in the Midwest League. He's hitting .269 with a .774 OPS, posting a dozen triples, in 98 games.

Even if he turns out to be a tremendous long-range prospect, it's going to be a few years, at least, before Adames is going to be major-league ready, so it's going to be a long time before the real payoff for this deal can be judged for Tampa Bay.

As it is right now, it doesn't look good, because the Rays gave up an elite starting pitcher and may not have a lot to show for it. For a team that has been playing as well as any over the past six weeks and now sits five out of a playoff spot, it feels like the Rays may have outsmarted themselves this time.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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