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In a complex, star-laden three-way deal at Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline, the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers acquired former Cy Young Award winner David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays, strengthening a rotation that already featured Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
The primary players:
The Seattle Mariners received outfielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers.
The Tigers received Price from the Rays.
The Rays received infielder Nick Franklin from the Mariners and left-hander Drew Smyly from the Tigers. They also are to receive from the Tigers 18-year-old Willy Adames, a Class-A shortstop.
The trade allows the Tigers to keep pace with the Oakland A’s, who have the best record in the American League and on Thursday morning acquired left-hander Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox. In early July, the A’s traded for Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. While they play in separate divisions, it is possible they will meet in the playoffs, as they have the past two seasons.
Price does not become a free agent until after the 2015 season. Scherzer, who can be a free agent at the end of this season, turned down a six-year, $144 million extension offer from the Tigers this spring. The money not spent on Scherzer could go toward Price, if they wish to extend him.
In Jackson, the Mariners hope to improve their offense, a season-long issue for them. With one out in the top of the seventh inning Thursday afternoon in Detroit, Jackson was removed from center field and told he would join the Mariners. Tigers fans gave him a standing ovation as he left.
The Rays had for at least a year measured the possibility of trading Price, what that would mean for today, and what it would bring tomorrow for a low-budget, high-expectation franchise. As they did, Price would take the mound every fifth day, win ballgames, and creep inevitably toward free agency and the end of his days in St. Petersburg.
The trade deadline minutes away, the Rays made the decision they perhaps didn’t want to make.
The Tigers will slot Price, who pitched Wednesday, into a rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello.
While losing one of the premier starters in the league and an undisputed ace, the Rays could continue a strong run toward contention in the AL East. Smyly will take Price’s place in the rotation, if not his stature in the rotation. They will field a rotation that also includes Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Hellickson.
Written off six weeks ago, when they were 24-42, in last place and 15 games out, the Rays are 29-13 since. They are eight games behind the Baltimore Orioles and 5 ½ games out of a wild-card spot.
Price, 28, leads the American League in innings and strikeouts. He is seventh in the league in WHIP. He is third in strikeouts per walk and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings. Unlike Lester, he is not a two-month rental.
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