Take that, trade rumor industrial complex. No one was expecting this until about an hour ago, but now it’s official: The Tampa Bay Rays have traded David Price to the Detroit Tigers. Ken Rosenthal was the first to report the deal.
It was a three-way deal involving the Mariners as well. At the moment we know this much: The Rays will get swingman (but future full-time starter) Drew Smyly and promising 18-year-old infield prospect Willy Adames from the Tigers. The Mariners will get center fielder Austin Jackson from Detroit. The Mariners will then send infielder Nick Franklin to the Rays. Fun note: the Tigers are playing a game as we speak. When the trade was made, Austin Jackson was pulled out of center field in the middle of an at bat. Which is what you have to do, I guess.
The Tigers and the Athletics, who have met in epic playoff matchups the past two years, just made some big moves today. And, if our dreams come true, could face one another in the ALCS, with David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez going up against Jon Lester, Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir. Oh, and Rick Porcello and Jason Hammel and two terrifying offenses are hanging around too.
As for the Mariners: Austin Jackson is an offensive upgrade, though at the moment he’s having a down year. But you have to like the deal for them on its own terms: they just turned Nick Franklin into Jackson. You make that deal seven days a week.
For the Rays: Smyly projects into a decent starting pitcher, though likely no ace. Given that there is no chance they could have re-signed Price once he hit free agency, this is probably the best of a bad situation for them.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.