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David Price trade deal is better than you think

ST. PETERSBURG

That's it? That's all? Bet that's what you're thinking right now. I'm guessing that was your immediate reaction when you heard the Rays traded their best pitcher — the best pitcher they have ever had, maybe the best player they have ever had — to the Tigers just before Thursday's Major League Baseball nonwaiver trade deadline. At first glance, the return for All-Star pitcher David Price seems rather light. The Rays got a mediocre major-league pitcher, a middle infielder who has yet to really stick in the majors and an 18-year-old prospect still down in Class A ball. Egads. They got more for Matt Garza, didn't they? They got a better haul when they traded James Shields, wouldn't you say? So what the heck happened? The Rays just got fleeced, right? Well, to everyone looking to burn down the Trop, calm down. Take a deep breath. Put away those pitchforks and torches. It's not the end of the world. It's not the end of the Rays.

This deal is better than you think. This deal seems all right.

Maybe not so much for this weekend, but for the future, near and far.

Call me gullible, but I'm banking that Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman knows what he's doing. His history is too good. His resume includes too many good trades to declare 12 seconds after this one that he just swung and missed. He has always managed to turn these veteran salary dumps into pretty good swaps.

First off, you cannot forget or dismiss the position Friedman and the Rays are in. They don't have enough money in the bank to keep Price long term. They don't have enough money, period, to do a lot of things. These types of trades and how the Rays run their organization are dictated by budget constraints.

"It's really important for us — and it's a cliche, I know, and I say it all the time,'' Friedman said, "to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future because, if not, you fall off the cliff. And to fall off the cliff means five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years of rebuilding. For us to be able to sustain success over the long term, these are decisions we have to make.''

Remember that point. The Rays didn't want to trade Price. They had to.

As far as the trade itself, no matter whom the Rays got in return, fans were going to be disappointed. There was going to be no player in the deal as good as Price. The Rays got immediately worse as soon as the trade was finalized. The already long and bumpy road to this year's playoffs just got even longer and bumpier, no doubt.

Whenever you trade a superstar such as Price, fans want to hear that you got the other team's best prospect. Maybe they've never seen or even heard of the player, but they want an assuring title, such as "Baseball America's No. 1 prospect'' or "the next Miguel Cabrera.'' Or even the good old "can't miss'' label.

Well, you won't find any of those encouraging titles here. This isn't like when they got Wil Myers, whose "minor-league player of the year'' sticker had you excited for the trade.

Instead, the Rays went a different route.

In the past, when they've made such deals, they've picked up Triple A-ready players, such as Myers, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi — players on the verge of taking the next step to the majors. And players who eventually came up and made major-league contributions.

This time, the Rays split the difference.

They went with a pitcher who can come in immediately and a prospect who is still years away. And another guy in the middle.

Let's start with Drew Smyly, a left-handed pitcher who already is in the majors. Is he a dropoff from Price? Of course he is. But he's only 25 with an arrow that is pointing up. He has 35 major-league starts and a career ERA of a respectable 3.46. Not only is he going to step into the rotation for the rest of the season but will give you another 4½ years at a reasonable price.

He's not going to win a Cy Young, but if the Rays could afford Cy Young winners, they would've kept Price. Smyly should be a mainstay in the Rays rotation for years.

In addition, they acquired Willy Adames, certainly the wild card in this deal. He's an 18-year-old hotshot who some — obviously, Friedman among them — believe can be special. He's a kid, so you don't know for sure. Maybe he turns out to be the next Starlin Castro or maybe he turns into the next Tim Beckham.

But so far, the reports are promising. He's off to a good start with his professional career and might be a gem.

In the middle is Nick Franklin, a former first-round pick whom the Rays have coveted for a while now. He looks to me like a switch-hitting Sean Rodriguez, but Friedman sounds more optimistic than that.

In the end, was it the kind of deal that makes you want to rush out and buy season tickets? Probably not. This trade does not seem to be going over well with most. Friedman knows that.

"We have to do what we feel is in the best interest of this organization even when it might not be popular in the moment,'' Friedman said. "For us, playing meaningful games in September for as many years as we possibly can and winning as many World Series as possible — that's what we are motivated by and what we are focused on. It's us appreciating who we are and what we need to do to sustain success.''

Friedman couldn't wait. The time to deal Price was now. The offers were not going to get better in the offseason.

This was the best deal that fit into the Rays philosophy that he could get. He had no choice but to take it.

Don't be surprised if it turns out to be pretty good after all.

At least better than you think.

The Rays' return

LHP Drew Smyly

Age: 25 Ht./Wt.: 6-3; 190

2014 season: 21 G (18 GS), 6-9, 3.93 ERA, 105⅓ IP, 111 H, 31 BB, 89 K

Career: 106 G (35 GS), 16-12, 3.46 ERA, 275⅔ IP, 255 H, 81 BB, 262 K

Fast facts: Moved back into starting rotation this season after strong year in bullpen in 2013. … Deep arsenal with fastball around 90, cutter, slider, curve and change. … Had second-best K/9 ratio (7.8) on Tigers staff. … Second-round pick in 2010 out of University of Arkansas.

INF Nick Franklin

Age: 23 Ht./Wt.: 6-1; 195

2014 season: Majors: 17 G, 47 ABs, .128 BA, .192 OBP, .170 SLG, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs. Minors: 75 G, 279 ABs, .294/.392/.455, 9 HRs, 47 RBIs

Career: 119 G, 416 ABs, .214/.291/.358, 12 HRs, 47 RBIs

Fast facts: Played 102 games in majors in 2013 but was odd man out after signing of 2B Robinson Cano. … Considered bat-first player who is better suited for 2B than SS. … Line-drive swing could produce 30-plus doubles, 15-20 homers a year. … Switch-hitter who has been stronger from left side. … First-round pick in 2009 out of Lake Brantley High.

SS Willy Adames

Age: 18 Ht./Wt.: 6-1; 180

2014 season: at Class A West Michigan: 98 G, 353 ABs, .269/.346/.428, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs

Fast facts: Rated Tigers' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America. After trade, was rated Rays' No. 2 prospect by mlb.com. … Detroit's top international signing in 2012, the Dominican Adames has held his own as the youngest everyday player in the Midwest League. … Above-average athlete with good bat speed, has shown solid patience and power for his age. … Has hands and arm for SS but might outgrow position.

Nick Franklin

Height/weight: 6-1; 195

Position: INFAge: 23

2014 stats: .128 avg., 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 SB

Drew Smyly

Height/weight: 6-3; 190

Position: LHPAge: 25

2014 stats: 6-9 W-L, 3.93 ERA, 89K's, 31 BB

David Price trade deal is better than you think 07/31/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 11:10am]
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