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August 1, 2014

Transaction Analysis

The Great Big David Price Trade

by R.J. Anderson, J.P. Breen, Sam Miller, Jordan Gorosh, Paul Sporer, Craig Goldstein and Jeff Quinton

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquire LHP David Price from Tampa Bay Rays in three-team deal; CF-R Austin Jackson goes to Seattle Mariners and INF-R Willy Adames goes to Rays. [7/31]

While it's tempting to picture Price as his younger self—a fireballing southpaw without a standout secondary pitch—he's matured into something better: a top-flight pitcher who weds raw talent with nuance. Price, through his own hard work and input from friend and former teammate James Shields (among others), now features an assortment of pitches—cutter, spike curve, and changeup—along with exceptional command. The combination has helped Price earn recognition as one of the best pitchers in the game, and has allowed him to remain highly productive even with some velocity loss.

For an example of how far Price has come, consider the opening at-bat against Carlos Gomez in Thursday's start versus Milwaukee: Price threw a changeup and curveball to sneak ahead 0-2,

then blew a fastball by Gomez for strike three.

That sequence would've been unfathomable five years ago.

In addition to Price's talent, durability (he's made just one trip to the disabled list), and additional year of control, he's developed as a staff leader. Whether the last attribute has value on a veteran-laden team like the Tigers is debatable. What isn't is that Price is an ace, and someone who should help the Tigers win through 2015. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

David Price

Price doesn’t really get any major boost in value by moving to the Tigers. While it should certainly help him from a wins-potential standpoint, his value transcends that category so you wouldn’t necessarily be able to acquire him for less even if he was still with the Rays. Price has historically excelled at home, but this year, his 2.74 ERA road is his best side, though his 3.41 home mark is hardly terrible. If you’re looking to acquire him, don’t’ let your trade partner drive up the cost simply because of this trade. If anything, it should be down from any previous talks since we now have less time left.

Rajai Davis

Davis’ playing time is going to shoot way up as the primary center fielder; however his production will likely go down, particularly his slash line. The volume will definitely aid the runs scored, runs driven in and stolen bases (and I guess home runs, though he has six this year with a career-high of eight), but overexposure against righties will eat some of those percentages. He has a .251/.299/.335 line against righties in 195 PA, so you could say that he’s already faced overexposure. With steady playing time, he could steal upwards of 20 more bases. His stolen base prowess has him on a team in just about all league formats, but if he is available for some reason and you need the speed, I’d get him. I just wouldn’t automatically pencil in full-time at-bats the rest of the way because I think there is a strong chance he soon faces a platoon with this man…


Ezequiel Carrera

Could Carrera be Detroit’s next J.D. Martinez? OK, that might be pushing it. Martinez showed a lot more in the majors than Carrera ever has, but Carrera is ripping up Triple-A just as Martinez was prior to his callup. In 434 PA, the 27-year old, lefty-hitting center fielder has a .307/.387/.422 line for Toledo, easily his best season since 2007 in the Rookie and Low-A leagues as a Met and arguably his best ever considering his .813 OPS in 2007 was essentially just singles and walks. He has always shown solid plate skills with a 16 percent strikeout rate and 9 percent walk rate in 3,800 minor-league PA. If called up, he could be a near-copy of Davis, only on the long side of the platoon. He has a .315 AVG and .839 OPS against righties this year and he has stolen 43 bases each of the last two seasons. I would put a few bucks on Carrera now if you have an open spot in your AL-Only leagues; otherwise you should be able to wait to see if he is in fact called up before acting in other leagues. If so, your need for speed should dictate your interest level. His .644 OPS in 405 major-league PA suggests the newfound Triple-A excellence might not stick. —Paul Sporer

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquire CF-R Austin Jackson in exchange for INF-S Nick Franklin in three-team deal with Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays. [7/31]

The Mariners have been searching for an answer in center field. They tried Abraham Almonte to start the year, who hit .198/.248/.292 and was merely a replacement-level player, as well as James Jones in recent months. Jones has been a slight improvement. He has compiled a .231 TAv in his 139 plate appearances and has stolen 20 bases, but the defense has been below average and his -0.2 WARP illustrates his overall value. Neither player had been a viable option for a team with dreams of a postseason berth.


Enter Austin Jackson. Before we get too excited about the 27-year-old center fielder, his offensive production has experienced a significant decline from his breakout campaign in 2012:



Year

TAv

2012

.300

2013

.272

2014

.270



But even the current version of Austin Jackson is a nice upgrade over the Mariners' internal options. PECOTA projects him to post a .267 TAv over the rest of the season, a nearly 30-point jump over James Jones—who is their best alternative.


Jones might still see some time against tough right-handers, as Jackson is hitting .253/.307/.385 versus same-side arms this season, but the everyday role should go to A-Jax. He crushes lefties and brings some certainty atop the batting order. He’s already a +1.1 WARP player this year, which is already a win above what Jones has brought to the table. It’s not an otherworldly upgrade to the center field position—at this point Jackson's fame probably overstates his value—but it’s the kind of upgrade that fringe contenders need to make. He won’t be a free agent until the 2016 season; thus, we’re not talking about a two-month stopgap at the position. The Mariners have acquired some continuity in center.


To acquire Jackson, the Mariners had to part with Nick Franklin, who hasn't had a home on the big-league roster since Robinson Cano came aboard. He’s a versatile defender whose best position is second base. He can draw a walk and is hitting .294/.392/.455 in Triple-A. However, he’s never been able to hit consistently in two brief stints in the majors. From the Mariners point of view, they acquired an everyday center fielder for a Triple-A bat who didn’t fit in their overarching plans. That’s a very solid day at the office for Jack Zduriencik and his crew. —J.P. Breen

Fantasy Impact

Austin Jackson

The upside for Jackson is that he’s going to play every day in Seattle, which isn’t the case for the other outfielders on the team. The downside is he’s going to a bad place to hit and to a significantly worse lineup. While we would normally expect some regression (in a good way) from Jackson’s 3.6 percent HR/FB rate in 2014, that just became a bit harder to accomplish. Not that you own Jackson for his power, but any little bit becomes that much harder to come by. The contextual stats are going to suffer as well, even with the additions of Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia. This just isn’t a strong lineup.

Chris Denorfia, James Jones, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison

Basically everyone else who even occasionally played outfield in Seattle loses out due to opportunity. It’s a very crowded outfield, and while Hart often plays first base, Morrison can too, and he’s less likely to see time in the outfield, and well… dominoes fall. It’s possible one of these guys ends up with a regular gig in the corner outfield, but divining who it is just isn’t possible at the moment. You can play a depressing game and keep track of who “breaks out” and add that player to your fantasy team, but know that previous instances of participation in such a game have resulted in therapy, and occasionally prescription anti-depressants. —Craig Goldstein

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquire INF-S Nick Franklin from Seattle Mariners and LHP Drew Smyly and INF-R Willy Adames from Detroit Tigers in exchange for LHP David Price. [7/31]

Kind of a weird return.

This is the fourth time that Andrew Friedman et al. have traded a very good, veteran-but-not-old starting pitcher a couple years or so before that pitcher would hit free agency. The pitchers haven’t been of equal quality, of course, but it’s still interesting to look at the returns, and how the type of return has changed.

Scott Kazmir, traded during the 2009 season
Return: Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres, Matthew Sweeney
Or, put another way:

  • A versatile big-league-ready infielder who had previously been a top-100 prospect but seen his star fall a bit due to player’s inability to repeat minor-league success against major-league pitching.
  • A young left-handed pitcher who had promise as a starter and a floor as a dominant reliever.
  • A low-minors prospect who could hit and play on the left side of the infield, but still far from The Show.

Or, in Ocean’s 11 language:

  • A Zobrist
  • A #3
  • A Batkid

Matt Garza, traded before the 2011 season (with Fernando Perez, Zac Rosscup)
Return: Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer
Or, put another way:

  • A top-100 prospect, but barely; at a premium position, but four promotions from the big leagues.
  • A young right-handed pitcher who had promise as a starter and a floor as a dominant reliever.
  • An old minor-leaguer who hit a bunch way after he should have been promoted.
  • A grindy minor-leaguer with blazing speed, a bright smile, and infield power.
  • A pretty stat line that scouts never really bought, at a corner.

Or, in Ocean’s 11 language:

  • A Distant Star
  • A #3
  • A Jumbaco
  • A Billyburns
  • A Calhoun

James Shields, traded before the 2013 season (with Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson)
Return: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Patrick Leonard, Mike Montgomery
Or, put another way:

  • An elite hitting prospect, like a serious top-10 guy who could win MVP awards and everything.
  • A young right-handed pitcher who had promise as a starter and a floor as a dominant reliever.
  • A low-minors prospect who could hit and play on the left side of the infield, but still far from The Show.
  • A post-hype pitching project who would probably turn into nothing, but maybe a reliever.

Or, in Ocean’s 11 language:

  • A Golden Ticket
  • A #3
  • A Batkid
  • A Wonka Bar

Price, traded 12 hours ago
Return: Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly, Willy Adames
Or, put another way:

  • A versatile big-league-ready infielder who had previously been a top-100 prospect but seen his star fall a bit due to player’s inability to repeat minor-league success against major-league pitching.
  • A young left-handed pitcher who has promise as a starter and a floor as a dominant reliever.
  • A low-minors prospect who could hit and play on the left side of the infield, but still far from The Show.

Or, in Ocean’s 11 language:

  • A Zobrist
  • A #3
  • A Batkid

Of course, the value of each of these archetypes is different depending on the context, and not all Batkids are created equal, and there are differences in exactly what was traded away (Kazmir had an extra year left on his contract, for instance, though that wasn’t clearly a good or bad thing at the time) and so on. But there’s two things you’d think about here:

  1. It’s a very similar package to the one they got for Kazmir.
  2. It’s fairly underwhelming at first blush compared to what they got in the other moves.

So starting with the first point. It’s similar to what they got for Kazmir. There are slight differences (Rodriguez was a year older; Franklin had hit a bit better, or maybe Rodriguez had; Sweeney was closer to the majors but had less potential positional value; etc.) but the main difference is that Torres was a no. 3 who wasn’t ready to contribute (and might never become a realized no. 3; plus, he was short), while Smyly is a no. 3 who is, and has been, on a championship-caliber team. While it’s easy to conclude too much from teams’ moves—there are limited players out there, and sometimes you just pick the best one regardless of your type—this is an interesting choice for the Rays. Smyly is already two years into his career. The Rays trade their pitchers once they get four or four and a half years of service time (or, in Garza’s case, three years). The Rays used their most valuable trade chit on a guy who is ready to contribute right now, and over the next couple years.

Which means that the Rays are sincere when they say things like “I think we're one of the best teams in the American League, period.” They plan for next year to be a competitive season. They believe it enough that they traded for a pitcher who is already half traded.

Of course, if they believed that, they could have just kept David Price. So this also means that the Rays expect to be good in 2016. There is literally nothing in this paragraph that has any value to you. Team thinks it will be competitive in two years. Okie doke.

But the Rays’ outlook beyond 2015 or 2016 looks, for the first time in a long time, not very good. Since 2008, they have drafted and developed one big-leaguer—rookie outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Their 2012 draft might end up the worst of the bunch. They have one of the league’s oldest lineups this year, which isn’t great, and one of the league’s worst farm systems, which is bad.

What has always made the Rays’ excellence look so effortless is that they were good in the present, and they had the parts to be good in the future, so they just needed to build the bridge. It was almost a self-sustaining cycle, churning the good present into the good future and building the bridge over the overlap. This trade, though. This trade is, if not quite a win-now trade, a lot of effort for the bridge. It doesn't do much for the future, unless Smyly or Franklin turn out to achieve much more than we currently think of as their ceilings.

The next couple years might very well be the last hurrah for this Tampa Bay run. We had to know that they couldn’t be good every year forever; the Red Sox can’t even manage that. This trade kicks that can down the road a little. But the day is coming, and Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly aren’t the type of players who will keep it away. For that reason, this is the first Rays trade in quite some time that didn't feel fun. —Sam Miller

***

It's rare for the Tigers to have a prospect with a first division profile, but Adames offers that type of ceiling, and a coinflip's chance of sticking up the middle. Standing at 6-foot-1, 180 with strong, thick legs, the Dominican-bred shortstop (for now) has an advanced approach at the plate and plus bat speed, with an innate ability to put bat to ball, and he often makes loud, hard contact. He has a crouched stance and toe tap load mechanism, and he keeps the bat flat through the hitting zone. As an 18-year-old in a pitcher-friendly league, Adames put up a .774 OPS, often displaying an IQ beyond his years. While there is some swing-and-miss at present, Adames often looks for his pitch to drive, and has some pull side power. In the field, the range isn't great, and he's not a quick twitch defender, but he has soft hands and a major-league-average arm. Due to a potentially advanced developmental schedule, he might stick at shortstop for a few years and eventually move. The bat is the carrying tool. Even if it doesn't work out at shortstop, it'll work at third, and he looks to have the skills to play every day in a major-league lineup. —Jordan Gorosh

Video of Adames:

Fantasy Impact

Drew Smyly

Smyly goes from being a starting pitcher on a good team with an average park for pitchers to being a starting pitcher on a mediocre team with a good park for pitchers. Consequently, Smyly’s value for 2014 is flat. If the Rays are able to be more competitive in future seasons—and I think they will be—then this will be a slight bump up in value for Smyly in future years.

Nick Franklin

Franklin goes from being blocked by Robinson Cano and limited by an inability to handle shortstop to a team that has the roster flexibility to give him consistent playing time at second base. We are not sure if Nick Franklin is a multi-positional type a la Sean Rodriguez or Ben Zobrist, and we are not even sure if he is good. We do know that he was highly touted as prospect and mashes every time he goes to Triple-A. He might have never gotten a fair shot in Seattle, but he most certainly will get one in Tampa Bay. If he is going to play right away, I would imagine that Zobrist is shifting to the outfield. If Franklin puts it together, he could give fantasy owners second base eligibility, double digit home runs and steals, and the potential for a plus batting average. Such production will not happen this year, but you might have to grab him now in keeper formats as he has the makings of 2015 sleeper pick.

Brandon Guyer and Logan Forsythe

Both Guyer and Forsythe will see a hit to their playing time when Nick Franklin gets put into the lineup—particularly Guyer, who will probably be replaced by Zobrist in the outfield to make room for Franklin at second base.

Willy Adames

While Adames is part of this trade, he simply remains a young prospect many years away from the show. Joining the Rays might benefit him as they tend to be more creative with tweener positional types. —Jeff Quinton

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
J.P. Breen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see J.P.'s other articles. You can contact J.P. by clicking here
Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here
Jordan Gorosh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jordan's other articles. You can contact Jordan by clicking here
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here
Jeff Quinton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

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