Friday, August 1, 2014

So many questions: Why did the Rays trade Price?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 1:42 PM

click to enlarge ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" crew dissects the David Price trade.
  • ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" crew dissects the David Price trade.

ESPN referred to it as "perpetual recycling." Yahoo Sports gave it a "to be determined" grade. CBS Sports described it as "a roundly unimpressive return."

After having a night to let the trade of David Price marinate, I still am dumbstruck.

In one of the busiest trade deadline days ever for Major League Baseball with 12 deals secured, 37 players exchanged, the reigning World Series champions utterly demolished, and the Red Sox and Yankees swapping players, the Tampa Bay Rays stunned the fan base by gifting one of the game’s best starters to a Detroit team that now has the past three AL Cy Young Award winners.

For the record, the “blockbuster deal” consisted of a three-team deal between the Rays, Tigers and the Seattle Mariners. The Rays dealt Price (11-8 with a 3.11 ERA over 23 starts in 2014) to the Tigers and acquired left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly (6-9 with a 3.77 ERA in 20 appearances and 17 starts) and minor league shortstop Willy Adames from Detroit, and infielder Nick Franklin from Seattle. In addition, the Mariners acquired outfielder Austin Jackson from Detroit.

With the loss of Price, the Rays now have just three leftovers from the 2008 roster that advanced to the World Series. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist have been with the team since that historic run to the playoffs, while Grant Balfour left and returned this season.

On an interesting side-note, the Oakland A’s, who traded for Red Sox ace Jon Lester and former Rays outfielders Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld in two separate deals yesterday, have six former Tampa Bay players on their roster (Fuld, Gomes, Jason Hammel, John Jaso, Scott Kazmir, and Steven Vogt), including four who played in 2008 with the Rays (Gomes, Hammel, Jaso, and Kazmir).

So many questions about this deal have me shaking my head: about the decision-making by Rays GM Andrew Friedman:

How could Rays GM Andrew Friedman not get a player like power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, like Red Sox GM Ben Cherington did by sending Lester and Gomes to Oakland?

Why not just trade for a proven Major Leaguer like Jackson instead of getting Franklin from Seattle?

Why make a business decision like this after the Rays had surged back into the playoff conversation due in large part to Price’s streak of six straight wins since June 25?

Why not wait until the offseason to make a similar deal if you couldn’t manipulate a monster deal that would wow a fan base that hardly attends games?

Listen, I understand this was an essential business decision that had to be done due to the salary constraints of the organization. I get it that Friedman had to make a deal to get something for Price.

“We can’t neglect the long term,” Friedman said. “Simply put, standing pat makes it much more difficult for us to maintain a compelling, competitive team going forward. That’s the reality of a low-revenue club.”

So, Friedman knew the inevitable. Knowing that should have dictated a move in this past offseason when he would have received a much bigger get than what just occurred.

Nothing against Smyly, Franklin or Adames, but they’re no Wil Myers, whom the Rays got in a deal that sent James Shields to the Kansas City Royals before the 2013 season.

I know the silver lining tells me that Smyly is a quality pitcher who’s young enough to get better. But don’t the Rays already have a car lot full of those types?

I know Franklin is a power-hitting middle infielder who was considered Seattle’s top prospect at one time and has sizzled with Triple-A Tacoma this season, with a .392 on-base percentage and a .455 slugging percentage this season. But he batted .214 in 416 at-bats after being called up to the Majors last year.

And Adames is an 18-year-old prospect who isn’t about to break into the Majors anytime soon.

While I appreciate Friedman’s sentiment about operating as “a low-revenue club,” the regurgitation of sub-par players is starting to feel like a high school chemistry project gone wrong. It’s as if the Rays have become a poor man’s version of the New York Yankees, turning players over year after year.

Surprisingly, yesterday made me miss the days of the Devil Rays, when hope dangled for fans the way it did for Andrew Dufresne, keeping him alive at Shawshank State Prison.

Hard as it may be, Tampa Bay, get busy living.

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