When the Rays traded David Price to the Tigers in a three-team deal back in 2014, the deal was met with a generally negative reaction for the Tampa Bay organization. The Rays weren’t far removed from trading James Shields and Wade Davis in a deal that netted Wil Myers (at the time a top 10 prospect in all of baseball), Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery. Expectations for a return on a Price trade were high in the first place, but landing such a stout package for Shields and Davis was a stunner that might have further bolstered the perception of what Price “should” command.
By the time the trade deadline rolled around in July 2014, the Rays were two games below .500 and eight games out of first place. Price was already earning $14MM and due another raise in what would be his final trip through arbitration the following winter. And Price, true to form at the time, had been outstanding: he’d started 23 games with the Rays and racked up 170 2/3 innings with a 3.11 ERA, 10.0 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. The Rays’ front office was faced with the choice of moving a year and a half of Price at the deadline or hanging on for a faint postseason hope and likely dealing just one year of him that winter. Then-GM Andrew Friedman surely knew that ownership wouldn’t be keen on committing a nearly $20MM salary to Price in 2015.
Ultimately, Price landed in Detroit in a deal that sent center fielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers to the Mariners as well. The Rays came away from the swap hoping that with the two headliners on their end of the deal, they’d acquired a controllable mid-rotation lefty (Drew Smyly) and a long-term piece in the middle infield (Nick Franklin). Onlookers were skeptical.
“I’m floored that this is all the Rays got for David Price — as are some of the execs I’ve talked to so far — and I can’t imagine that the return this winter would have been any worse,” Keith Law wrote for ESPN when reviewing the trade at the time. While both Smyly and Franklin had the chance to be average regulars, Franklin in particular came with some downside. Franklin didn’t even draw a mention in Dave Cameron’s rundown of the swap at FanGraphs, which praised the Rays for grabbing a ready-made mid-rotation piece in Smyly but painted the move as a win for Detroit. Most reactions to the deal were similar. Cameron noted that the 18-year-old shortstop prospect the Tigers threw in “might have some future value,” and Law called him a “lottery ticket in the scope of the deal.”
Any concerns regarding Franklin’s future proved to have merit. The former No. 27 overall draft pick was touted as a top prospect for years, but he never panned out with the Mariners, the Rays, the Brewers or the Angels. Tampa gave him a decent leash — understandably so, given the nature of his acquisition — but after two and a half years in the organization, Franklin had compiled a lowly .227/.284/.388 slash in the big leagues. His production in Triple-A wasn’t much better outside of a solid run of 57 games in 2015. He was designated for assignment in 2015 and lost on waivers to the Brewers for no return.
Smyly’s time with the Rays proved more fruitful. He tossed 289 2/3 innings of 3.95 ERA ball and logged some encouraging strikeout numbers. At times, Smyly looked like a potential breakout candidate — I admit to thinking as much of him… just before the Rays traded him to Seattle in the 2016-17 offseason. Smyly indeed went on to star for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but he had Tommy John surgery before that season even began and ultimately missed two seasons due to that injury.
Suddenly, the Rays were left with the lottery ticket shortstop they’d picked up for Price and the two players they’d received from the Mariners for Smyly — that’d be the trio of Willy Adames, Ryan Yarbrough and Mallex Smith (whom they later traded back to Seattle for Mike Zunino and now-23-year-old lefty Michael Plassmeyer, who is still in the system).
Adames, now 24, might not be an All-Star talent at shortstop, but some would argue that he still has that potential. He went from a lottery ticket to peaking at the No. 10 overall prospect in the game on Baseball America’s 2017 rankings, and he’s settled in as the Rays’ primary option at short. In 907 plate appearances to date, Adames has hit .263/.328/.414 with 30 home runs (plus a huge ALDS showing in 2019). He played quality defense in 2019 (12 Defensive Runs Saved, 4 Outs Above Average, 2.5 UZR/150) and has provided some value on the bases. The Rays are dreaming of the day when wunderkind Wander Franco overtakes him, but Adames should have value either at a different infield position or as a trade chip when that time comes. He’s controlled through the 2024 season and won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2021 campaign.
The 28-year-old Yarbrough has thrown a near-identical number of innings with the Rays (289) to Smyly’s 289 2/3, and his 4.03 ERA pretty closely mirrors Smyly’s work. But Yarbrough has posted that number at a more hitter-friendly time in the game — his 106 ERA+ and 92 FIP- both top Smyly’s 100 ERA+ and 103 FIP- with Tampa Bay — and has more club control remaining than Smyly did at that point. Last year’s 3.55 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 and 43.8 percent grounder rate seem to suggest that Yarbrough is capable of holding down a spot in the rotation for the next few years.
The Rays were reportedly set to move away from relying so heavily on openers, deploying a more traditional staff of Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Yarbrough. Like Adames, Yarbrough is controllable through the 2024 season.
Nearly six years after trading the best pitcher in franchise history for what the club hoped would be a mid-rotation lefty and a potential shortstop who might move to another position, the Rays have… a pretty solid 28-year-old lefty and a quality young shortstop who may eventually move to another spot when their top prospect emerges in the Majors.
They took a roundabout path to this point, and the Rays should have done better in their return for Price in the first place. Price was a capital-A Ace with more than a year of team control remaining and was in the midst of a terrific year on the mound. But while the deal looked like a bust early on, the Rays are still left with some lingering pieces of value that could theoretically help carry the club past the 10-year anniversary of the day they moved Price — if they’re not traded before then.
So the Rays screwed up and botched trading an icon. But 5 years later they lucked into serviceable pieces…..
or the rays just knew what they are doing and outsmarted another team like they’ve done numerous times
Among the best professional scouts in the business.
Exactly. The writer didn’t do a ton of research and wrote a misleading article.
Adames was never a “throw-in” if you go back and look at the Rays front office comments at the time of the trade. He was considered undervalued and had just come into his own at the time of the trade and was about to be ranked a lot higher in prospect ratings after the season. But teams/front offices have far different evaluations than people on the outside. And this trade truly showcased it. I’d take a borderline all star shortstop who is getting better, a starter who has averaged 15 wins a year, and a starting catcher (not even discussed) for Price any day of the week. The Rays didn’t “lose” the trade. They knew what they were doing and the trade has worked out very well for them even if Franklin was a bust.
wild bill tetley
The Rays lost the Tigers trade. They managed to salvage the loss thanks to the Mariners. Make no mistake the Rays lost that Price deal.
How can you say the Rays lost this trade? What did the tigers win? What did the tigers get for Price?
wild bill tetley
Sorry. When I read the part about Adames I thought it was a separate deal much later. My apologies. Clearly they did not lose the trade and I am wrong. I should have checked the full deal before commenting.
Adames is a borderline all star??????
As a Rays fan, I remember Adames being repped by the local press as a key piece of the Price. After the initial shock of the trade, most fans settled when Smiley pitched as well as he did for the rest of the season
The writer didn’t do a ton of research and wrote a misleading article.
Terrible. This was a good trade for TB, and would’ve been a great trade had Smyly not gotten hurt.
I remember reading that too. Back then, a friend was still covering the club for the local paper and that was the thought, when he and I talked about it.
stan lee the manly
Ya I don’t think most people would characterize this as outsmarting anyone. They flat-out missed on Franklin and they are fortunate to have value in Adames.
It’s the nature of prospects. You could just as easily say they were unfortunate to not have more value in Franklin.
And have 0 World Series to show for it
Not this time.
The Rays should have gotten more at the time. Bad process, good results.
Lol … because anyone can see five years in the future
Adames is gonna have like a 5 WAR season in 2021, get a little expensive, the Rays will make a shocking trade no one saw coming, and then replace him with a 6 WAR player in Franco. Wash rinse repeat.
Not sure about this one. I seem to remember more than a few times after the trade there were reports that the Rays and Tigers were high on Adames, and even expected he would eventually become the best player in the deal, hence why the Rays zeroed in on swapping him and Price.
I thought the rays originally got mallex smith from the Braves?
The Mariners got Mallex Smith in the deal that sent Luiz Gohara to Atlanta and traded him to Seattle all of 90 minutes later. It could probably be a considered a three-team deal wherein Tampa Bay just didn’t send anything to Atlanta, really. But it was announced by the teams as two separate trades.
“The Mariners got Mallex Smith in the deal that sent Luiz Gohara to Atlanta and traded him to…” Tampa, no? 🙂
I think if you check (probably NESN archives) DD always said he regretted trading Adames, and that was when Willie was still struggling mightily as a SS. At the same time, DD was convinced Price would take the Tigers to the promised land, and he didn’t regret it THAT much.
Franco has SS issues. There’s room for both of them in the Montreal infield in 2022.
I’m shocked that KLAW missed it on this one. Kind of like calling Dustin Pedroia a utility infielder….(To be fair, he’s right more than wrong).
Montréal, Vegas, Nashville, Buffalo, Portland…they have options. heck, they could even head to Puerto Rico.
Wasn’t just Law — I could’ve pulled from a number of columns panning the deal, but Keith’s quote was concise and also included the fact that other front office execs throughout the league were pretty down on the deal, so it seemed more salient than others I could’ve grabbed.
Regardless of how highly Dombrowski and/or Friedman thought of Adames — he was too far from the big leagues and too risky to be considered a centerpiece in the deal. They needed to add some more up front value, and Franklin’s stock was already down. Him serving as a key piece was particularly looked upon with skepticism.
Why did they “need” up front value? Future value with current value has been the Rays way for quite a few years. If the two GM’s were high on Adames it should tell you something. Not what a reporter (Law) said. There is a big difference between working for a team and in a team’s scouting department than being a writer. The two GM’s thought highly of Adames and made the move based on that.
Yes but multiple other execs bashed the deal 1.5 years of david price should have gotten more value in return
Tigers got more value by trading him the next year. They got Boyd and Norris. So Tigers traded Jackson, Smyly and Adames for Boyd, Norris and a AAA pitcher Labourt. Throw in 1 year of Price at 32 starts 2.90 era and 13 – 8 record.
If you throw in what the Tigers got for Price, then you have to throw in TB got for Smyly.
wild bill tetley
Ask any Blue Jays fan about Keith Law’s MLB contribution. In fact, check mid-2002 to 2006 for reference. He’s racked up plenty of misses.
A lot of that was his hero, JP Richardi, whose now spreading his skill with the Mets…..getting a lot of the same results, too…..
…so that is why the Mets make so many stupid moves… Jed Lowrie 2 year $20 million. He made $1.3 million per at bat last year, all of 7 at bats…….I can go on……and on… and on
What I can not believe is why the Mets keep him as GM
4WSsince04 – One season doesn’t cement his failure, he’s been an agent his whole life, he’s been selling the ceiling of ‘his players’ instead of expecting the floor for prospects he acquires. If he can make the mental change he’ll be great, he’s a smart dude. But it’s not easy for any successful person to admit they need to adjust the optics of their position from what has previously brought success.
The reason the Cano trade went bad was he evaluated Cano like he was trying to get someone to sign him to a contract. He projected a full season of 2018 results, he looked at the amount saved on his salary and said to himself this is what I would ask for Cano in free agency. Figuring the other pieces justified the upside of Diaz and the salary dump of Bruce and Swarzak. Instead he should’ve looked at what production is typical of a 35 y.o. second baseman and said. I need $50M more or somewhere in between and a lesser prospect than Kelenic.
The other problem is the unique situation where JeDi knew more about Kelenic than his own GM due to previous scouting. Inthink Jerry would’ve covered another $30-$40M in Cano salary to get Kelenic had he been pressed. To think he almost got McNeil included at one point.
CincyMariner – JP Richards was largely unsuccessful in Toronto and with the Mets. He has made a number of stupid trades, and as a fan I have said, “Glad I am not a Mets fan”. Cano was an over pay, bad contract and Diaz is an pitcher from a pitcher friendly park who does not trade well. Every point you made supports my point that he in a bad GM. I would never trade any players for a 35 year old player. I hate see the my favorite team acquire pitchers from Seattle and San Diego as they very rarely do anything close to what they did in SD or Seattle. I personally think it may be the wet, foggy air as well as the park itself in San Diego.
The Mets keep throwing money at aging veterans whose best years are well past or trading prospects trying to compete immediately when they would be better served trying keep the prospects and develope them as Mets.
Again I am not a Mets fan, but I feel there continued pain as I went 33 years before seeing the team I like win a World Series, so I hope the Mets can get a GM who is will to build a team from drafted or international signings, and personally I enjoy watching the prospects come through the system and become star with the organization. I do not see any team competing unless they build from within. CBT and FA contracts have made it too expensive to buy every All – Star available like the a certain organization used to do. MLB has changed a lot in my 51 years as a fan and if it does not adapt the popularity will fade…. a lot.
I forgot about nick franklin
That name always stuck out, what happened to him? It’s like hearing the name wiki González
Adames is a gold glove caliber defensive SS and his bat picked up significantly in 2019 over 2018. All-star talent. Hasn’t been recognized nationally yet.
Adames has improved considerably, but there’s quite a lot of landscape between him and a Gold Glove (there’s a guy named Simba in LA, for example). Willie’s ceiling is a poor man’s Xander Boegarts, which is not a knock about either.
He is a solid player for sure, but given the strength at SS around the league, he needs to to a bit more to be all star level.
if they held Mallex their gain probably would’ve been quite good. given how a lot of prospects turn out, its impressive that they hit on both Yarby and Adames.
Mallex was a prospect from the padres, traded to the braves
yeah, i know he wasnt a prospect anymore at that point
The Raus trade Mallex at the peak of his value and got 5.1 bWAR for the league minimum salary. They played it perfectly, just look at what the Mariners got from Mallex last year and know he goes up in cost starting in 2020.
So the moral of the story is, when you think you lost a trade, call the Mariners. -Diehard and suffering M’s fan.
Buso35 – don’t feel bad even Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre could not hit in Seattle…it’s the air there, because the ball won’t carry. Seattle needs a new dome…..
Actually the ball stopped carrying when they tore down the viaduct and started changing the surrounding buildings. It forced more air through the stadium. Simple solution is to add plexiglass walls to the outside of the stadium in left field to prevent cross winds from Puget Sound that knock down the ball. Similar solution at the top of the stadium behind what used to be lookout landing and the old cloud crowd!
So, this conclusion stunk. The reality was it was a sneaky good trade and Seattle didn’t save the trade, the media panned a great trade because as usual they know little more than a high school baseball coach about player acquisition at the highest levels of the game. The Rays gave up 10-11 WAR of production and $27M in salary value (3 WAR in FA approx.), leaving a net loss of 8 WAR above replacement level cost and talent. A huge number but the $27M is even more overwhelming for a small-market franchise trapped in a old crappy stadium.
The reality is that…
Smyly (3.8 bWAR and $5.2M over league min.)
Adames (5.6 bWAR and $0 over league min.)
Mallex S. (5.1 bWAR and $0 over league min.)
Yarbrough (2.4 bWAR and $0 over league min.)
Zunino (-0.2 bWAR and $3.8M over league min.)
Franklin (-0.7 bWAR and $1M over league min.)
Totaling: 16bWAR and $10M over league min. + 5 years of Adames + 5 years of Yarbrough + 2 years of Zunino + 6+ years of Plassmeyer.
That’s a really strong return for any player including an ace. They netted double the WAR while saving more than $15M in surplus salary over league minimums and they are still mining value from 4 of those players. Long term this will be one of the better small-market salary dumps of the decade.
dynamite drop in monty
Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine
I remember this trade well.
I always considered Adames the bigger loss.
Just another example of DD looting a team’s farm system for the here and now.
You can’t wait 10 years & take the net of all subsequent moves & then decide who won or lost the original trade. Where do you stop? “ well, because this guy didn’t work out it forced them to go a different direction, & then 10 years & 8 trades later they finally got a winner; see I told you they knew what they were doing all along!” What a load of crap.
This is why I love this website! Excellent trace of these trades and their impact! Keep up the great work!
So yeah, pretty equivalent WAR totals from this trade so far. https://mlbtrader.nationalwidgets.com/war_chart?transaction_id=202893
Adames, and Yarbs should continue to add value. Zunino, he’s been a net negative so far, but maybe gets better.
Good trade by TB and kind of the way they pictured it. Adames figured to be their SS and Franklin their 2B, and Smyly would get traded before he started getting paid the big money.
Adames was better than expected, and Franklin was worse, but that is just normal variance.
There is nothing else to see here.