After acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki earlier this week, the Blue Jays have put all their chips into the pot by trading for Tigers ace David Price. To get Price, they gave up prospects Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt and Matt Boyd. All three are lefty pitchers, with Norris being the most highly-touted of the three and Boyd picking up steam as a sleeper. Price is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, so Toronto gave up those assets for two months of Price and any possible postseason production they get out of him. Price is also rumored to be willing to negotiate a possible extension of his contract before diving into free agency this winter.
Before we get into the largely intangible value of the exclusive contract negotiation rights the Blue Jays now possess, let's take a look at how their 25-man roster has improved. By fWAR, the Jays have had the 10th-worst starting staff in the Majors. Their starters have combined for just 5.2 WAR, 1.8 of which belong to Mark Buehrle. 1.4 of those wins have come from Drew Hutchison, despite his 5.42 ERA. FIP is used to calculate fWAR, and FIP is fond of Hutchison (3.99 mark) despite giving up 1.08 homers per nine innings. Pitcher WAR is a funky thing, but we can generally say that based on Hutchison's basic outcomes, he hasn't been great. The other starters, Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey, are either out-pitching their career norms (Estrada) or old and ineffective (Dickey). It's safe to say that Toronto was in desperate need of an upgrade to their rotation is they were looking to seriously compete.
Price is one heck of an upgrade. In 146 innings with Detroit, he's pitched to a 2.53 ERA and accumulated 3.5 fWAR. ZiPS projected him to add 1.8 wins to that figure before the end of the season, though moving into the hitter-friendly confines of Rogers Centre (and the AL East, for that matter) could augment that. Regardless, Price is a legitimate ace and takes away starts from the likes of whatever half-baked arms the Jays would theoretically run out there. With rumors flying that GM Alex Anthopoulos is not yet through waging war on our Twitter timelines, there could be yet another starting pitcher pitching in Canada.
Presently, FanGraphs projects Toronto to go 31-29 for the rest of the season. Let's say Price adds another two wins of value, which brings them to 33-27. It's not much, but it's enough to push them further into contention for the second Wild Card. There's also the new matter of Michael Pineda's forearm strain. If the Yankees are in trouble, now is the time for the Jays to pounce, especially if they wind up with another pitcher.
Is that enough, though? Marco Estrada is pitching way over his head (SIERA claims that he's more of a 4.29 ERA pitcher), after all, and the bullpen is still in a state of disarray. Price is an excellent pitcher to be sure, but can he drag Toronto into the playoffs by himself? I'd have to say no. The Blue Jays need to add another arm to their rotation to be legitimate contenders to me, especially in a playoff series. The idea of trotting out a mix of Buehrle, Estrada, Hutchison or Dickey after Price is a scary one, especially when the bullpen is inconsistent. Another good reliever could go a long way.
There's also the matter of the prospects that Toronto forfeited. Norris was the Jays' consensus top prospect, while Boyd profiles as a mid-rotation starter. Labourt is a bit of a wild card and still far away in his development. Norris figured to be a major part of the Toronto effort next year, and losing him makes 2016 a bit more of a murky picture. However, Marcus Stroman should return and ease the pain of losing Norris, especially if Toronto retains Price.
Overall, this is a move that the Blue Jays needed to make, and it didn't cost them an arm and a leg to complete. Losing Norris hurts, but in the end flags fly forever. If Toronto can maximize the time they have with Price, they could look very smart at the end of it all.
Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also covers the Yankees and their Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, at Pinstripe Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.