By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Over the month of July, the Oakland A’s acquired three marquee starting pitchers – Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel several weeks ago and Jon Lester on Thursday. A few hours after the A’s got Lester, the Detroit Tigers snagged David Price.
Tigers manager Dave Dombrowski downplayed any notion that Oakland’s moves influenced the trade for Price, and starting pitcher Justin Verlander backed off his comments from earlier in the month, when he said he thought the A’s acquired Samardzija and Hammel with Detroit in mind.
“I don’t necessarily think the Oakland A’s made those trades to beat us,” Verlander clarified after Thursday’s game. “I don’t think [A’s general manager] Billy Beane’s sitting there making that trade going, ‘We’ve got to beat those Tigers, we’ve got to make it to the AL Championship Series.’ That’s not what’s going on. They want to win a World Series, and we want to do the same, so it’s not like they make the trade for Lester and we want to come back and say, ‘Oh no, they did that, now we’ve got to do this.’ That’s not the way this all works.”
To some extent, though, it does work that way, and Verlander articulated the motivation behind the moves perfectly as he walked out of the clubhouse.
“If you’re high up in the organization, you look at the rest of the teams in baseball, a lot of teams, making a lot of moves, a lot of big names going around, and you say, ‘Okay, well we’ve got to get better,'” Verlander said. “Not that we have to get better; we’ve got a great team. Everybody had a great team already, and they got better, so if you want that last push, you’ve got to do something drastic.”
Oakland did. To procure the services of Lester, the A’s parted ways with Yoenis Cespedes. Detroit countered – whether the organization wants to call it that or not – by landing Price, which the Tigers did at the expense of center fielder Austin Jackson and starting pitcher Drew Smyly.
The A’s and the Tigers absolutely made their respective moves with each other in mind; they know they will likely meet in the postseason, when advancing means a shot at the World Series and losing means going home empty-handed yet again.
Detroit’s opportunity for a title is fading fast, with MVPs Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander likely on the decline from their considerable peaks and with perennial All-Stars Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer entering free agency after this season. If the Tigers want a championship, they have to grab it now.
Oakland also wants it, of course, and so the A’s made their final push, as Verlander put it, by bringing in Samardzija, Hammel and Lester.
Whether the Tigers wants to admit it or not, the acquisition of Price was Detroit pushing back.