FRED GOODALL, AP Baseball Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays insist they haven’t given up on their season by trading David Price.
The 2012 AL Cy Young winner was sent to Detroit on Thursday in a three-team deal that landed pitcher Drew Smyly and shortstop prospect Willy Adames from the Tigers and infielder Nick Franklin from the Seattle Mariners.
The Rays made the playoffs four of the past six seasons and entered 2014 with expectations of contending for a spot in the World Series.
With Price leading the way, they’ve rebounded from poor start to surge into postseason contention, going a major league-best 29-13 since June 11.
But it wasn’t enough to stop the budget-minded team from trading Price, who was making $14 million this year and can become a free agent after 2015.
“Compared to the other possibilities, it was by far the most prudent thing that we could do for the best interests of the franchise,” executive vice president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman said.
“Simply said, standing pat makes it much, much more difficult for us to maintain a compelling, competitive team going forward. That’s the reality of a low-revenue club,” Friedman added. “I think it’s obvious to everyone that follows the game that the economic disparity is only widening. It makes it a little more challenging in our quest to always balance the present and future, but we can’t waiver from who we are and how we have to do things to have success.”
The Rays considered dealing Price last winter, but opted instead to sign him to a one-year contract while boosted payroll to around $80 million.
After a rough stretch in which the team lost 14 of 15 to drop a season-high 18 games under .500 (24-42) on June 10, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the left-hander’s days in Tampa Bay were numbered.
“It’s no fun losing a David Price. But it’s done,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Now you have to move on, and you’ve got to make the best of it.”
With Smyly (6-9, 3.77 ERA) joining the rotation and the injured Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan and David DeJesus expected to return from the disabled list soon, Maddon hopes to keep the Rays in the chase for a playoff berth.
He concedes it won’t be easy without Price, but he’s confident Tampa Bay has enough left to finish the job.
“I’m anticipating not skipping a beat, and that’s not denigrating David in any way. I just think we’ve come so far — and we have a bunch of professionals in our room — that I want to believe we’re going to be able to continue this,” Maddon said.
“I want to believe our players are mature to understand to know that nobody’s given up on anything,” the manager added. “It’s just a matter of the way this thing has worked.”
Team president Matt Silverman feels the same way.
“It’s not waving a white flag at all. … If your team plays to the level that it can, especially considering all the head-to-head games we have within our division, we have a chance to make up the deficit and get into the playoffs,” Silverman said.
“It’s more difficult without David, but if the rest of the team plays up to their potential, we’re going to be playing meaningful games in September for the seventh consecutive year,” Silverman added. “And that’s what we’re about, maintaining that competitive team, year in and year out. And, this transaction will help us do that.”
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