David Price shines in his Tigers debut

27 Comments

New uniform, same results: a lot of strikeouts, no walks and a nice long outing that, had the Tigers bats been a bit more effective early, would’ve saved the bullpen. Welcome to the Tigers, David Price.

Price didn’t get the win, but he certainly did what the Tigers wanted him to do when they traded for him. He pitched eight and two-thirds innings, scattering eight hits, striking out ten Yankees and walking no one. The Tigers went on to win the game in 12 as Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan shut things down after Price’s departure. While 12 innings is not something a manager wants to endure, that’s a bullpen combination Brad Ausmus would love to rely on in late innings, avoiding his less-effective relievers. Price’s long outing made that possible.

To see the contrast, one need only look at the Athletics-Rays game where the pitcher who was traded away from Detroit for Price — Drew Smyly — labored over five and a third innings, leaving with the loss and tossing only five fewer pitches that Price did in nearly nine. Smyly’s a fine pitcher and will have better days, but the Tigers are in win-now mode and an ace who can dominate games is what is needed. Even if Price makes the fourth or even fifth ace on the staff.

For his part, Price seemed relieved after the game to have his first Tigers start under his belt, saying “Happy it’s over, and happy we won. Finally feel part of the team.”

I’m sure the feeling is mutual, David.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
5 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.