Price’s Tiger tenure: Short stay, big wins, good teammate

For the second time in a year, David Price stood in front of reporters and talked about being traded away at the July 31 deadline. This time, however, he at least wasn’t caught by surprise.

The hints at the Tigers selling by July 31 had been coming long before Thursday’s trade that sent Price to the Blue Jays for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. The official heads-up came Wednesday afternoon as they headed out of Tropicana Field, Price’s old home park. By the time Price filed into Camden Yards, he was no longer a Tiger.

He got in his usual workout, including some light tossing, said goodbye to teammates, packed up his gear and then slowly pedaled out on his travel bicycle. His Tigers tenure, which began with a stunning trade to Detroit last July 31, ended in an expected one July 30.

“It’s part of the business,” Price said. “We had a very talented group of guys in here, and so do the Blue Jays. Just go there and be ready to pitch every five days and then be a good teammate on the days in between.”

It’ll be the last part that will be part of Price’s legacy in the Tigers clubhouse, relatively brief as it was.

“He is in the top three of all people that have put on a baseball uniform that I’ve met in terms of being a good teammate,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who played parts of 18 seasons with four different clubs. “Luis Gonzalez was one. Jeff Bagwell was one, Trevor Hoffman. They’re the elite in terms of teammates. You don’t see many people like him, that type of talent, that type of talent, with that type of selflessness.”

Current teammates agreed.

“He’s an awesome teammate, one of the best teammates I ever had,” Ian Kinsler said. “Toronto’s getting a really good pitcher and a good guy for two months. It’s tough to see a guy like that go.”

The Tigers traded young starter Drew Smyly, center fielder Austin Jackson and shortstop prospect Willy Adames to bring in Price last summer, with the hopes of not only gearing up for a playoff run, but also filling the void left by Max Scherzer’s eventual departure. He not only gave the Tigers the ace they needed, but also the fourth straight division title they wanted, earning the clinching victory on the final day last regular season.

After going 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA down the stretch, Price settled into his surroundings this season and thrived, going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 starts. He averaged almost exactly seven innings a start this season, delivering 146 innings. The Tigers, who initially struggled to get a boost from his outings last year, went 15-3 over his first 18 starts this season before going 0-3 in his starts after the All-Star break, culminating in Wednesday’s 10-2 loss to the Rays with a gaggle of scouts watching.

“It was fun,” Price said. “The city took me in very well, and all the guys in the clubhouse, the entire coaching staff, everybody did everything in their power to make me feel comfortable and make me feel at home. I am forever grateful for that.”

It was a classy departure for Price, just not a shocking one. Even as Price won from the outset this season, the countdown to free agency was on. That clearly played a part in the Tigers’ deliberations to make a deal, but a stronger run in the playoff race this summer likely would’ve made a difference.

“We did approach [Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis] in Spring Training,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said, echoing comments McKinnis made to MLB Network Radio last weekend. “And it was clear we were not in the same [ballpark]. It just was not where we wanted to go from a financial perspective. I saw Bo McKinnis recently in Minneapolis, ran into him outside the clubhouse and kind of talked for a couple minutes, and it was apparent that there really had not changed.

“There was a strong part of us that would’ve loved to keep David, but we’re also in a spot where we do have financial parameters.”

Price is expected to be the top free agent on the market this winter.

“Everybody envisions themselves playing for one particular team their entire career,” Price said, “but it’s not the way it happens. Very few guys get to stay in one place for the duration of their career — unless you are a truly special player. It’s part of the business. We all get that and understand it. If you don’t like it, play better.”

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