7/31/2014 8:27 P.M. ET
Tigers hope championship comes with a Price
GM Dombrowski decides to go big in effort to bring Detroit a title
By Tracy Ringolsby / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski never thought about making the team better.
He wanted to make the Tigers the best.
He wasn't looking to patch holes.
He was looking to make an impact.
And he did.
In the final hours before baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline on Thursday, Dombrowski landed lefty David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays, an idea that was first broached two weeks ago and four days later pushed off to the side as a nice idea that wasn't going to work.
And all of a sudden the Tigers have a clubhouse filled with individual hardware -- the last three American League Cy Young Award winners (Max Scherzer, Price and Justin Verlander) and the last three AL MVPs (Miguel Cabrera the past two years and Verlander in 2011) -- in the quest for the game's biggest hardware, the World Series trophy.
There was a price -- lefty Drew Smyly went back to the Rays along with top prospect Willy Adames, an infielder, and center fielder Austin Jackson was dealt to Seattle, which in turn sent infielder Nick Franklin to the Rays to complete the three-team, five player deal.
The payoff, however, has the potential to be huge.
"What this give us is the best chance to win a world championship this year,' said Dombrowski. "We know we have to get there. We know that. But we felt adding him gives us the best chance to do that."
Oh, does it.
Think about it.
The postseason starts.
The Tigers are the opponent.
Verlander is the fourth guy in the rotation. That's right, the guy who in the five previous years has won more games (91) and struck out more batters (1,194) than anybody in the big leagues, and has a 3.05 ERA, which ranks behind only Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver in the AL, is sitting behind the likes of Scherzer, Price and Rick Porcello.
And the Tigers know not to be deceived by the fact that Verlander, this year, is only 9-9 with a 4.79 ERA because there's an awareness that in any start he can regain his domination. There's still an aura about a guy who is only 31 and has been so dominate.
There, however, is also no getting around that the other three have been the elite this year.
Scherzer is 13-3 with a 3.27 ERA.
Porcello is 12-5 with a 3.24 ERA.
And now Price. He is 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA, and in his last 12 starts, he is only 7-4, but he has a 2.02 ERA over that stretch, having averaged 7 2/3 innings. He has not given up more than three earned runs in any of the 12, and has allowed one or no earned runs in seven of the games.
"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball," said Verlander. "He's left-handed. He's a power pitcher, which always plays well in the playoffs. We have to get there first. You don't want to look beyond. We're not there yet, but we've got a good quality team."
And don't forgot Anibal Sanchez, who is 7-5 with a 3.57 ERA, but does have a no-hitter on his resume, and, despite a 2-4 record, has compiled a career 2.95 ERA in six postseason starts. He's the fifth in the Tigers' five-man alignment.
"There's a lot of great rotations out there right now, especially with what Oakland did," said Verlander, "but I love this rotation. I love our guys. It's going to be tough to beat."
The A's had a tough time beating the Tigers in the Division Series the past two years, which is why they spent the last month rearming their rotation, acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs at the start of the month, and then adding lefty Jon Lester from the Red Sox on Thursday.
The A's, however, don't have anyone that has won a Cy Young.
The Tigers do -- three of them.
There have been teams in the past with three pitchers who have been Cy Young winners, most recently the 2009 Giants with Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Randy Johnson.
The Tigers, however, are the first team with three different pitchers who won the Cy Young in the three previous seasons with the addition of Price.
"I don't even care what the rest of the league does, honestly," said Scherzer. "I believe in this clubhouse so much. I know what type of talent we have in here. I didn't think we needed to make a move to be able to compete with anybody else. I believe in everybody in here.
"The fact that we go out and make a move, that's the front office trying to say, 'Hey, we're going to get better and we're going to try to win it all.' Let's close out the American League Central and wrap this up. Let's play good baseball for the rest of the second half and let's see what happens in the postseason."
Time will tell.
There's no sure things in life, much less baseball.
An original member of the American League, the Tigers have won only four World Series in their history, and the most recent was 30 years ago. They also were world champions in 1968, 1945 and 1938. They have been to the postseason the last three years, but advanced to the World Series just once, in 2012, when they were swept by the Giants.
Now, however, they are feeling giddy about the potential this season thanks to a trade that 17 hours before it was announced wasn't even a serious consideration, much less a point of discussion.
Dombrowski chatted with Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman about the availability of Price back on July 21, but the talks never got serious enough to merit discussing a definitive package. In the meantime, there was a lot of speculation about the possibility Price could go to multiple teams, including the Dodgers and the Pirates.
Then, driving home from Comerica Park after the Tigers' 7-2 victory against the White Sox on Wednesday night, Dombrowksi got a call from Friedman, wondering if the Tigers still had interest in Price. Dombrowski said yes.
"[Special advisor] Scott Reid reminded me [Thursday morning] that a couple of weeks ago when we sat down with the staff, he said if we can get David Price and [reliever] Joaquim Soria we can go for it," Dombrowski said.
The Tigers acquired Soria to add bullpen depth on July 23. Eight days later, Price came aboard.
Now, the Tigers are counting on the expectations to become reality.
"To me, the message is we want to win," said Dombrowski. "If we win, I'll be very satisfied."
The Tigers have certainly made a championship pitch.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.