Tampa Bay Rays Still Feeling Good About David Price Haul


As you probably just heard, David Price was just traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, 364 days after the Tampa Bay Rays dealt him to the Detroit Tigers. The Blue Jays gave up left-handers Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt to get him after the Rays received Drew Smyly, Willy Adames, and Nick Franklin. Rays fans not familiar with the Jays’ prospects have to be asking themselves about what they should think. Did the Rays get too little for their ace? Even those with more knowledge, though, can’t be certain how to compare Norris, the #18 prospect in the game according to Baseball America, with a guy like Smyly.

The thing that should not be under dispute for any intelligent fan is the fact the Tigers didn’t blow away the Rays with the players they received for Price. That remains true even now, with the knowledge that Smyly is dealing with a shoulder injury and that Franklin looked terrible in the big leagues this year. Norris comes with plenty of questions of his own–after starting the year in the major leagues, he was demoted to Triple-A and hasn’t dominated by any stretch, managing a 4.27 ERA and just a 78-41 strikeout to walk ratio.

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If the Rays are to believed that Smyly can avoid shoulder surgery–and given that he’s actually pitching again, we have no reason to doubt them–Smyly comes with no more risk than Norris and has a much higher floor. His upside is also right there with Norris after the adjustments the Rays made after acquiring him, and he is under team control for three more years after this season. Willy Adames, meanwhile, has blossomed into a top prospect, something that can’t be said about Boyd or Labourt. Boyd has good command and deception, but he has no plus secondary offerings and is likely a number four starter or reliever. Labourt, meanwhile, has great stuff but doesn’t know where it’s going and is likely to end up in relief. That is before we even get to Franklin, who has rebounded at Triple-A and still has a good chance of giving the Rays value in the future.

We can debate whether the Rays or Tigers did better based on how much team control Price had left, a year and two months for the Rays versus just two months for the Tigers. In terms of the players received, though, there is a clear argument to take the Rays’ package over the Tigers’, and if Smyly proves himself healthy, it may not be particularly close in the Rays’ favor. They have a potential frontline starter, a starting shortstop, and a utility player while the Tigers have their own potential ace, but then just a number four starter and a reliever.

This is before we get to the fact that we aren’t making an apples-to-apples comparison here–we really should be comparing what the Tigers are getting now to what the Rays believed they were getting a year ago. At that time, they saw a controllable big league pitcher for whom they had an adjustment in mind that would make him into a number two starter or better, a second baseman coming off a solid major league season, and an unproven but extremely talented shortstop prospect. Someone please try to spin the Tigers’ haul in a way that sounds better than that.

Of course, anything could happen from here. If Smyly needs shoulder surgery while Norris gets past his control and command issues to lead the Tigers’ rotation for years to come, then maybe the Tigers will win out. On the other hand, the Rays come out ahead as of right now and when we compare what the teams thought at the time of each trade, and no matter what happens from here, you can’t fault the Rays for their thinking. There is nothing from the more recent trade that suggests that the Rays did poorly when they traded Price last season.

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