Bob Nightengale: ‘Absolute Steal For The Tigers’

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David Price (Credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

David Price (Credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

In hindsight, perhaps it isn’t all that surprising that Jon Lester and David Price were traded before the deadline Thursday. Rather, the surprise might just be where they landed.

“Yeah, (that’s) definitely (the case with) Oakland getting Lester,” USA Today MLB insider Bob Nightengale said on The John Feinstein Show. “Everybody thought they were done once they got (Jeff) Samardzija and (Jason) Hammel. They had already gotten rid of prospects, but nobody in the world thought they’d be trading their All-Star cleanup hitter, (Yoenis) Cespedes, to go get a Lester.”

“And with Tampa, (David) Price was out there for so long, the price kept dropping on him (and) he really fell in Detroit’s lap. An absolute steal for the Tigers.”

Let’s focus on that second trade for a second. Why did the price – no pun intended – keep falling on the former Tampa Bay ace? And why didn’t Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman hold on to him? After all, Price was under contract through 2015, so Friedman could have traded him in the offseason.

“I think ownership told him, ‘You know what? You got to move this guy,’” Nightengale said. “I think because the price tag was so high on him before, teams already started looking another way. If you’re the St. Louis Cardinals, the packages they gave up to get (Justin) Masterson from Cleveland and then (John) Lackey from Boston, it would’ve been easier to give that same package to go get David Price. I think (the Rays) fell in a bad spot there. I think they could have got the same return – if not more – if they just held on to him for this winter.”

Instead, Rays manager Joe Maddon must keep morale high on a team that is 29-12 since June 10 – the best record in the majors. Tampa Bay (53-55 entering play Aug. 1) is also just six games out of a Wild Card spot with 54 games – exactly one-third of the season – remaining.

“It’s tough,” Nightengale said. “It crushes the clubhouse. Here they are, the hottest team in baseball – still a bit of a long shot to win the division (but contending for the Wild Card). Then the (message) from the front office (is that it’s giving up). If the front office doesn’t care, why should (the players care)? You get the fans disgruntled – not that they have a huge fan base, but why bother going to games? Hey, they paid season-ticket prices to watch David Price for an entire season.”

In another development, it was also surprising to see major league players traded for, well, major league players. Usually, deadline deals involve a major league player – if not an All-Star – for prospects. Was Thursday merely a coincidence? Or does it suggest a changing philosophy among general managers?

“I think (it) definitely (suggests) a change,” Nightengale said. “These prospects are getting valued so high – in many cases, overvalued. People think, ‘Okay, we got some young up-and-coming guys – cheap labor.’ The funny part is, the industry’s about to get $9 billion in revenue, and teams are acting like (they did) 20 years ago. But yeah, prospects now are being (more) highly regarded than regular major league players.”

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