Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Let’s get this part out of the way right from the start:
Did the Red Sox overpay for David Price?
In a word — yes.
In two words — hell, yes!
But, seven years, $217 million is the cost of doing business with an ace pitcher in Major League Baseball these days.
By the way, that amounts to $31 million annually (though there is a player opt-out clause after three years).
When Detroit gave Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $110 million contract earlier this week ($22 million annually), the market was set. Price and Zack Greinke were instantly set up for massive pay days.
Price now becomes the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, surpassing Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million contract.
Max Scherzer got a seven-year, $210 million contract last year, amounting to $30 million annually, though the deal is heavily backloaded and will continue paying him even after the six-year term has officially ended.
Is Price as good as Kershaw? No.
But the Sox needed an ace and couldn’t afford to go another year without one. They tried playing without one last season, and that didn’t pan out too well.
In other words, the Sox could afford to pay Price, but they couldn't afford not to.
Boston thought they had a rotation of No. 3 pitchers in 2015, but in reality they had a staff of No. 4s and 5s.
Make no mistake, this is as much about TV ratings and ticket sales as anything else. Price raises fans’ hopes, raises interest in the team, and will put asses in seats.
After three last place finishes in four year years, the Red Sox aren’t the draw they once were. It had to burn Boston’s ownership that the Patriots were garnering more interest and press in July than the local baseball club.
It should also be noted that since Price was traded during last season, the Red Sox do not have to give up their first round pick as compensation for signing him. That was undoubtedly a huge factor for Dave Dombrowski in making this deal.
And a big deal it is.
Over eight years in the Majors, Price has posted the following line:
Those are some damn good numbers, and they will create excitement at Fenway. Tickets for the 2016 season go on sale this month. The Sox needed a draw, and they’ve now got one.
Price has a Cy Young Award in his trophy case, and finished as the runner up two other times.
Boston likes stars, and now there’s a new one in town.
Of course, Price doesn’t have a solid postseason resume, posting a 2-7 record (the two wins were in relief) and a 5.12 ERA over 14 games / 63.1 innings.
However, once upon a time, Randy Johnson wasn’t very good in the postseason either. Early in his career with Seattle, Johnson posted an 0–6 playoff record in four playoff series. He turned out alright in the end though.
Clayton Kershaw has also famously struggled in the postseason, but who wouldn’t want him leading their rotation?
This deal has the potential to blow up on the Red Sox. John Henry has a noted, and reasoned, distaste for long term contracts for pitchers in their 30s.
Keep in mind, the Sox version of a long term contract is five years. A seven-year deal goes well beyond that.
Price will be 31 next April, so if he plays out the life of the contract, he will pitch for Boston through his age 37 season. Thirty-one million is a whopping sum for a player at age 35 or 36, much less 37.
But if Price opts out after three years, the Sox will likely have gotten the contract's best years for a sum of $93 million.
We all remember that Henry and Co. didn’t want to go dollar for dollar with the Cubs for the services of Jon Lester, who ultimately got six-years and $155 million from Chicago. Boston’s final offer came in at six years, $135 million.
Why the change of heart?
1. The 2015 season was a disaster without an ace heading the Boston rotation.
2. Price is simply better than Lester, who has never won a Cy Young Award, an ERA title, a strikeout crown, or won 20 games in a season.
For his part, Price has won two ERA titles and a strikeout crown, and has also led the AL in wins, innings and complete games.
Yes, the Red Sox may come to regret this in 2022, 2021, or even 2020. But Price should continue to be an elite pitcher for at least the next four seasons.
And if Boston wins just one World Series in that span, it will have all been worth it.
After all, that’s what this is all about.