DIVISION leaders Detroit and Oakland forged an American League arms race as the Tigers got David Price from Tampa Bay and the A’s dealt for Boston’s Jon Lester in a frenzied finish to Thursday’s trade deadline.
The pair of aces could lead to an epic collision in the AL Champ-ionship Series between West-leading Oakland, who have a MLB-best record of 66-41, and the Central’s Tigers (58-47), who own the biggest division lead in the majors.
Oakland swapped some power to add another dynamic arm to their rotation as they sent All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes.
Lester (10-7, 2.52 ERA) joins a rotation that boasts Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija, acquired in an earlier blockbuster with the Cubs, as cost-conscious general manager of the small market A’s, Billy Beane, moved his chips all-in for a run at the World Series.
Detroit, Fall Classic runners-up in 2012 and 2006, found the price was right to obtain Price (11-8, 3.11 ERA) in a three-way deal that included the Seattle Mariners.
“Wow...what a day!! Rays fans THANK YOU!! Great Chapter of my life just ended...ready to start a new one with the Tigers!! Thanks again” Price said on Twitter.
In adding Price to a stellar starting group including Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers sent lefty Drew Smyly to the Rays and outfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners, who shipped infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.
Eighteen teams began the day within five games of playoff position, resulting in a dozen deals shortly before MLB’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.
Boston was busy at the trade deadline after falling flat in 2014 following their rousing World Series triumph last year.
The Red Sox, last in the AL East with a 48-60 mark, sent another quality pitcher to a contender in dealing John Lackey (11-7, 3.60) to the St. Louis Cardinals (56-50), who are third in the NL Central, 2½ games behind the leading Brewers.
In return, the Red Sox received first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.
Lefty reliever Andrew Miller, 3-5 with an outstanding ERA of 2.34 with 69 strikeouts in 42-plus innings, was sent by Boston to division foes Baltimore for promising pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
Boston even traded with the archrival New York Yankees. In a swap of infielders, the Red Sox sent away shortstop Stephen Drew for New York’s Kelly Johnson.
The Yankees added another infielder by getting Martin Prado from Arizona for minor league catching prospect Peter O’Brien.
The Miami Marlins, often sellers as deadline day approaches, became buyers when they acquired pitcher Jarred Cosart from Houston in a six-player trade.
Teams can still make trades through Aug. 31 to have players eligible for the postseason, but it becomes more tricky. Now a player must first clear waivers, meaning every club in the majors has a chance to claim him before he can be traded.
National League East-leading Washington Nationals (58-47) shored up their infield by obtaining shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from Cleveland for young infielder Zach Walters.
Cabrera teared up in the Cleveland clubhouse as he talked about being traded for Walters. The trade came a day after the Indians sent pitcher Justin Masterson to the Cardinals.
“I had fun here,” Cabrera said. “This was the team that gave me the opportunity to play. It’s hard ... it’s hard. It was like I grew up here.”