It was a big trade. It might have been a good trade. But it has little chance of being a great trade the Tigers made Thursday for David Price, a championship-brand left-handed starter the Tigers got with precisely that word in mind: championship.
For the second time in eight days, the Tigers paid retail for a roster piece they are praying puts them over the top and brings owner Mike Ilitch, 85, the world championship he wants as his final, eternal sports gift.
But you wonder if even Price, who can only work every five games for the Tigers, and who is headed for free agency in 15 months, is enough to put a flawed team into the World Series and across the finish line.
For that boost in a rotation’s firepower, the Tigers lost an effective, back-end starter in Drew Smyly, as well as center fielder Austin Jackson, who in past weeks has been playing the brand of baseball he has often delivered and all but promised to make a permanent part of his daily routine.
Most costly, the Tigers lost 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames, who was destined to be their top prospect in 2015 and who represents a potential coup for the Rays.
The Tigers will celebrate the deal — for now. They want to lock up a division title and be better equipped to beat any playoff team they’ll be obliged to topple in October’s dangerous, short-series playoffs.
They believe Price gives them that edge, just as they are confident they can patch their center-field hole with a modest committee headed by Ezequiel Carrera, a .300 hitter at Triple A Toledo. He’s a left-handed batter with speed and a fine glove and with past experience in the big leagues.
It’s a seriously expensive eight days of shopping for the Tigers, who last week handed over two superb pitching prospects in their trade for Joakim Soria.
Thursday’s parcel was heavier and potentially painful, given what Adames is likely to bring the Rays and what Jackson might have provided ahead of free agency, at the end of next season.
But the Tigers are trying to win. Now. And they believe, no matter how much their bullpen continues to misbehave, no matter how their offense can bog down, that Price — a Cy Young Award left-hander who they will no doubt try to sign long-term in 2015, is an upgrade worth the extraordinarily high cost they were willing to pay Thursday.