The Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Jon Lester set the early bar for the MLB trade deadline on July 31. Once Lester got sent to the Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes, it seemed that Oakland won the trade deadline by shoring up the best pitching staff in the American League, if not all of baseball. Yet with minutes to spare, the Detroit Tigers poked a hole in that theory by landing the next biggest pitching prize in David Price.
Price seemed destined to stay with the Tampa Bay Rays for a few more months, since the Rays had an outside shot at the second wild card berth again. However, he still got sent to a Tigers team that has designs on so much more -- and now has a starting rotation to overtake the Athletics again.
Detroit now has the last three AL Cy Young winners on its staff, as 2012 winner Price joins 2013 winner Max Scherzer and 2011 winner Justin Verlander. Yet because Verlander hasn't been his usual self this season, it may help explain why the Tigers really needed Price to bolster the rotation.
It's also questionable whether the Tigers would have made this move if the Athletics hadn't gotten Lester. Oakland hadn't been mentioned as a serious contender for Lester before it made the deal, just as few expected Detroit to take away Price. But because they closed their respective deals, the Athletics and Tigers are now fully established as the AL pennant favorites on paper, despite the likes of the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles chasing them.
The Tigers and Athletics were already among the biggest rivals in baseball before the trade deadline, given how Detroit broke Oakland's hearts in two straight ALDS Game 5's on the road. The Athletics have fallen short of reaching the ALCS for many years, whereas the Tigers can't get over the hump of winning a World Series. Both teams have serious October demons to conquer -- with Detroit being a particularly significant demon for Oakland.
Now Lester and Price may play a part in settling old scores for both teams. For all anyone knows, they could face each other in a big ALDS or ALCS pitcher's duel. However, the trade deadline falls two months before any actual playoff action, so Lester, Price, the Tigers and Athletics still have a lot to do before October.