Blue Jays: Even for half a season, the David Price trade was worth it

Looking back on all that’s happened since the Blue Jays traded for David Price in 2015, I’d say that deal was more than worth the cost at the time.

When I think back to July of 2015, it was one of the more surreal periods of my life as a sports fan. I’d long dreamed that the Blue Jays would make a real push to win a World Series again, something I hadn’t seen them do since the early 90’s, and suddenly Alex Anthopoulos was pushing his chips to the centre of the table.

First came Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies in a move that shored up the shortstop position, and also helped the bullpen with the addition of LaTroy Hawkins. They also picked up Mark Lowe from the Mariners to boost the bullpen, and Ben Revere from the Phillies to give the lineup a new leadoff hitter. But it was the trade with the Detroit Tigers that brought David Price to Toronto that changed everything. Suddenly the Blue Jays had the no-doubt ace that they had been in search of for a long time.

We all know how it worked out, as the Blue Jays ended up losing to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS that year. And even though it didn’t equate to the Blue Jays bringing home the ultimate prize, the fan base was re-energized in Toronto and across Canada, which carried over into 2016, and even into 2017 when the team was no longer a serious contender.

When Price signed a seven-year, 217 million dollar deal with the Boston Red Sox after the 2015 season, some folks were understandably upset that the Blue Jays wouldn’t pony up to retain the ace left-hander, especially since he was reportedly open to re-signing in Toronto. It was also a bone of contention that the Jays paid so much to only get his services for less than half a season. That’s a fair point, but looking back on the pieces that they sent to the Tigers, I’d argue that it was a price worth paying (no pun intended).

In return for the ace southpaw, the Blue Jays sent Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt, which was a fairly substantial fee for a player on an expiring contract. That said, Price was considered to be a premium starter at the time (and still is to some extent), so he was never going to come cheap. As much as it looked like the Blue Jays paid a hefty cost, it really hasn’t been all that bad. We’re certainly not looking at the Noah Syndergaard/R.A. Dickey swap kinda remorse here anyway.

Norris was considered to be the prize of the trade at the time for the Tigers, but unfortunately his career has been derailed a bit by a variety of injuries, including a brief bout with thyroid cancer in 2015. Over parts of six seasons in the big leagues, Norris has posted a 15-30 record with a 4.54 ERA, and a 1.407 WHIP across 82 starts and 97 appearances overall. He could still theoretically unlock his potential, and he remains with the Tigers, but he’ll be a free agent after the 2021 season and has yet to fulfill that promise.

The second piece of the trade was Jairo Labourt, and the Tigers really didn’t get much there. He threw six innings for the Tigers in 2017 and posted a 4.50 ERA, but according to his page on baseballreference.com, he hasn’t made a professional appearance since 2018 when he threw 5.2 innings in a Dominican Summer League.

The best part of the return for the Tigers has been Boyd, who had an excellent first half of the 2019 campaign. That said, his overall tenure in Detroit has been pretty mixed as well, as he’s posted career marks of 31-47 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.320 WHIP across 122 appearances over five seasons. Realistically, he’s been an average pitcher at best throughout his career other than prior to the All-Star break last year. He entered the break with a 3.87 ERA and looked to be one of the top pitchers on the trade market, but his value crashed back down to earth 5.51 ERA in the second half.

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Add it all up and the Blue Jays really didn’t give up a premium package for Price back in 2015, even if many felt they had at the time. That’s the thing about prospects, sometimes you lose when you trade them, and other times you win big. As far as the deal for David Price back in 2015, I feel like it’s aged pretty well, even if they came up a little short of their ultimate goal that year.

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