David Price one-hit the Tampa Bay Rays and still managed to lose. If this type of game happened when Price will still a member of the team, we would have said that only the Rays can pull off a loss like that. Well, apparently the Detroit Tigers can too. In any event, the game reminds us of a truth that the Rays have acknowledged over and over again: you can have too much pitching, and when you do, it is an opportunity to improve your team elsewhere.
Pitching depth is always an interesting topic in baseball. With injuries happening seemingly every other second, teams better have sixth, seventh, and eighth starters available at Triple-A. But the issue lies when those extra starters are established major league pitchers that simply don’t have a spot. We saw what happened when the Oakland Athletics sent a perfectly capable big league starter in Tommy Milone down to Triple-A–they wound up trading him to the Minnesota Twins for a fraction of what he could have been worth if he had continued performing in the major leagues. The fundamental difference between the Rays and A’s before the deadline was that the Rays had too many starters because of a gradual buildup from prospects panning out while the A’s got to that point because they had just acquired Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, and Jason Hammel. The Rays were looking to trade from the top of their rotation–David Price–while the A’s had acquired the frontline pitchers and were suddenly looking to deal Milone from the bottom. Unlike for Oakland, however, the difference between number one and number five or six in the Rays’ rotation was much smaller.
The Rays knew they had a true ace in Price, but they also saw four more pitchers with a chance to get to that point as well. Cobb managed to beat Price on Thursday to continue his incredible year, and he is joined by Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Matt Moore for next season. Drew Smyly, who the Rays acquired for Price, has also shown a good deal of potential, and we’ve seen Jeremy Hellickson stifle major league hitters for two full seasons while showing flashes of doing the same this year. The Rays found themselves with a bevy of number two or number three starter types, and nearly all of them have the upside to be even better. The difference between a real, legitimate ace a little over a year from free agency and a fast-rising number two or three starter is not so enormous. When you can have the latter pitcher replace the former following a trade, that is something you are perfectly fine doing if you are getting pieces of value for their ace. Even if receiving Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Willy Adames did not quite blow the Rays away, they were losing little for the present and gaining plenty for the future.
David Price was downright incredible on Thursday afternoon. No matter what the scoreboard says, he pitched better than Cobb and proved again just how incredible a pitcher he is. However, is the difference between him and Cobb so large that the Rays cannot be perfectly fine without him? Is a rotation of Price, Cobb, Archer, Odorizzi, and Hellickson really so much worse than a starting five of Cobb, Archer, Odorizzi, Smyly, and Hellickson? The Rays will not be missing the playoffs this season because David Price is gone, and the trade will not be at fault even if they fail next season as well. David Price is one of the pitchers in baseball, but the Rays can move forward without him and achieve similar success.