Analytically, How Big of an Acquisition Was David Price for the Blue Jays?
Hey guys. I called it, 24 hours before it became true.
If Price isn't a Blue Jay by COB Thursday, they're doing something wrong.— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) July 29, 2015
Quick, somebody get me to a racetrack.
After trading for Troy Tulowitzki earlier this week, people couldn't figure out what the heck the Toronto Blue Jays were doing. They already owned the best offense in the American League, and the subtraction of Jose Reyes in exchange for Tulo at shortstop certainly helped make that offense even better.
But Toronto's starting pitching has been their weakness all season long. Why did they add a bat when they clearly needed an impact arm?
Well, on Thursday, the Blue Jays got their arm, trading for David Price of the Detroit Tigers in exchange for three minor leaguers, including the Jays' number-one prospect, Daniel Norris. Two other pitching prospects, left-handers Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt, are also heading to the Tigers in the deal. It was a heavy price for Toronto, as Norris was ranked as the 18th-best prospect in the minors according to Baseball America's midseason rankings.
Price has put together one of his best seasons yet this year, going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA, a 3.00 fielding independent pitching (FIP), and an fWAR of 3.5 (11th in baseball). His nERD of 2.32 is sixth-best among Major League pitchers, meaning Price is 2.32 runs a game better than a league average pitcher. His 8.51 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) is right at his career average, and his walk rate of 1.79 walks per nine (BB/9) is a bit higher than last year's but still below his career number as well.
He will be a big help for a Toronto team that came into Thursday third in the American League East at 51-51, seven games behind the Yankees but just two games out of the second Wild Card spot. In fact, the addition of Price has increased the Blue Jays' odds of making the playoffs from 41% to 48%, according to our metrics. It also increases their chances of winning the World Series from 3.8% to 5.6%.
That may not sound like a lot, but it is.
Toronto's fWAR from their starters is third-worst in the American League. Their rotation ERA of 4.34 is fourth-worst, and their 4.34 FIP is third-worst. Only two teams have fewer strikeouts per nine innings from their starters, the Twins and Rangers, and teams are hitting .266 against them, tied for 11th out of 15 teams in the American League.
Not only that, the urgency to win in Toronto is palpable, as no team in baseball has gone longer between playoff appearances than the Blue Jays, who haven't made the postseason since Joe Carter danced all over the Philadelphia Phillies' hearts in 1993.
That's 21 years. The Jays do not want to make it 22 this year.
Of course, giving up your top prospect for a rental was a heavy price to pay, as Price is a free agent after the season. And even if Toronto wants to re-sign him, they'll be bidding against many other teams to pay him a contract that will likely guarantee Price six or seven years and close to $200 million.
But Toronto needs to make the playoffs, their pitching was weak, and they have a lineup that can outbash anyone at any time.
It was a move worth making. Now, it just has to actually work out.