The Toronto Blue Jays' biggest need coming into the trade deadline wasn't a shortstop or a power hitter -- which they got earlier this week in Troy Tulowitzki -- but a starting pitcher, as they've cycled through numerous guys for the last spot in the rotation and haven't gotten the expected results from Drew Hutchison this year.
Acquiring David Price from the Detroit Tigers fills the hole in the rotation, gives them a bona fide No. 1 starter for a one-game playoff or to start the first game in a division series and at a price that, while fair for Detroit, doesn't destroy the Jays' farm system.
Price is an easy two-win upgrade for the Jays even over just 11 starts, maybe more when you consider the names who've started in that spot for Toronto over the past few weeks. Price works with a plus fastball and slider, above-average changeup and a cutter he uses to keep hitters (especially right-handed) off the fastball. He's one of the stingiest starters in baseball with walks, and misses a ton of bats, even within the strike zone. He's also durable with no serious arm trouble in his pro or amateur career.
The Jays are only one-and-a-half games behind the Twins entering play Thursday night, and their moves leading up to the deadline have improved them by more than that on paper.
Detroit gets one elite prospect with a red flag attached and two third-tier arms who project as big leaguers. The elite prospect is lefty Daniel Norris, consistently in my top 20 for the past eight months, who struggled in the majors to start the year, leading to the cavalcade of starters that the Jays have paraded through in that fifth spot.
Norris will show three above-average to plus secondary pitches, but his velocity has dipped this year, particularly in July, as he's been more 90-91 mph in recent starts, where last year he was 94-95 for most of the season. He can still be effective with the average velocity, but he needs better command and will have to pitch more with the three off-speed pitches. It's also possible that the lost velocity will come back at some point; he's not hurt, and Madison Bumgarner was pitching in the high 80s for most of a calendar year while he was still a prospect, something that went away as quickly as it arrived.
I still think Norris has No. 1 starter upside, but if he's going to be 90-91 or so for the foreseeable future, he has a couple of developmental hurdles to clear. He becomes the Tigers' top prospect, unseating their first-round pick from last year, Derek Hill.
Matt Boyd made two starts in the majors this year, giving up five homers in six innings, which exploits his main deficiency as a potential starter: his fastball is average and flat with no life, and he's going to be very fly ball-prone. It was a terrible fit in Toronto, but Detroit's park is more pitcher-friendly and he could develop into a fifth starter there. If he can add a sinker or cutter or two-seamer even as an occasional option to get hitters off the four-seamer, it would help significantly.
Jairo Labourt is a starter now but profiles as a two-pitch power reliever who dominates left-handed batters; he does have the huge fastball the Tigers tend to favor in their pitching prospects.