Tigers to receive package of prospects, including Toronto's No. 1-ranked Norris
By Gregor Chisholm
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays became instant contenders in the American League after they pulled off yet another blockbuster trade on Thursday afternoon by acquiring former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price from the Tigers.
Toronto sent left-handed prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt to the Tigers as part of the deal. It's the second major move this week after the Blue Jays acquired All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies on Tuesday.
Price gives the Blue Jays a bona fide ace and someone who will anchor a starting rotation that currently includes R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada and Drew Hutchison. Price is the type of workhorse that every team would love to possess, but something the Blue Jays haven't had in years.
"We really haven't had a true No. 1 since Roy Halladay was here," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon. "You kind of forget what it was like, the innings, the expectations of winning day in and day out.
"I remember when J.P. Ricciardi was here, every time Halladay would pitch, he'd say 'Man, we're so good, we're a great team when Roy Halladay is on the mound.' No matter what the club was like, you just felt like you were a great club and I think getting guys like Price, that type of impact, those No. 1 starters can make you a great team all by themselves."
Toronto sports the best offense in baseball, but the club has struggled to a 51-51 record entering Thursday's game against the Royals because of constant issues on the mound. The Blue Jays entered play on Thursday ranked 23rd in the Major Leagues with a 4.34 ERA and 24th with a .270 opponents' batting average.
Price should go a long way in helping to boost those numbers. He's earned a reputation as being one of the top starters in baseball throughout his eight-year career. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 and last year he finished sixth in the voting after splitting the season with Tampa Bay and Detroit. In 2015, he is 9-2 with a 2.53 ERA while striking out 138 over 146 innings.
The southpaw is eligible for free agency this winter, and because he was traded during the season, the Blue Jays cannot make him a qualifying offer, so they won't get Draft-pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.
The fact that Toronto acquired a rental player breaks from the mold that typically saw the club only interested in players with multiple years of control. Trading away top prospects for a pitcher who will make 11-12 starts the rest of the way is a risk, but it seems to be one worth taking considering the opportunity for this season and the fact that Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are eligible to become free agents at the end of 2016.
"We have a very good team and we have enough time," Anthopoulos said of a team that was two games back of the second Wild Card at the time of the trade. "I would love to control David Price with three years of control. He didn't get traded from Tampa with three years of control and last summer we didn't seem to line up with them.
"These types of players, the great superstar players, rarely become available. We had an opportunity to do it, it's more of a reflection on the belief of the guys that we have right now on the roster. We think we're a good team and adding a guy like Price, we think makes us that much stronger and give us a chance to win."
The centerpiece of the deal going the other way is Norris. The Tigers had been in the market for Major-League ready starting pitching and that's what they'll get from a guy who was ranked Toronto's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com. Norris' stock slightly dropped this year because of command issues, but he's still just 22 years old and has a bright future.
Norris made his big league debut late last year and began this season in the rotation before eventually getting optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. Once there, he struggled to find consistency and posted a 4.27 ERA over 16 starts. If he finds a way to throw more strikes and limit his pitch count, Norris has the type of potential to become a very solid middle-of-the-rotation piece.
Boyd made his Major League debut earlier this year, but it didn't go very well. He appeared in two games for Toronto and in his final start he allowed seven runs on six hits and a walk while retiring just two batters. The results in Buffalo have been much better with a 2.77 ERA in six starts and he projects to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Labourt is a little farther away from the Majors. He was Toronto's representative at this year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and went 2-7 with a 4.59 ERA for Class A Advanced Dunedin. Those numbers don't tell the full story as Labourt has strong potential, but he will need patience from the team that is developing him. Labourt was ranked Toronto's 19th-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
"We still feel like we have a ton of young prospects and a ton of young players," said Anthopoulos, who grimaced when asked if the Blue Jays had gone all in. "I know a lot of them aren't known but now they're starting to be known a little bit. I'm reading and hearing about guys like Anthony Alford, Connor Green, Sean Reid-Foley, two years ago no one knows who those guys are when they're drafted.
"The same way people didn't know Norris, or Boyd. We get to know them because we're around them day in and day out. I think our scouting department continues to find players and development continues to do a great job with them. We always track what we have left, we fight to keep as many as we can but our responsibility is to win here as well."