The Boston Red Sox agree with ace pitcher David Price on a mega 7-year contract. Are the Sox going to regret dishing out this kind of money?
By William Chase
The Boston Red Sox made one of the biggest splashes of the 2015 free agency period when they signed ace pitcher David Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA with Detroit Tigers/Toronto Blue Jays in 2015) to a 7-year $217 million contract Tuesday.
The Red Sox need a frontline starter, and Price fits that need in a major way. The runner-up for the AL Cy Young award for 2015 should continue to thrive at Fenway Park, where in his career he’s 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 11 starts — the best ERA of any park he’s visited minimum 10 starts, and No. 1 of any pitcher since his 2008 debut.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 1, 2015
In 2015 the Sox ranked 24th in ERA among starters (4.39), and 13th in the AL ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers, coincidently both Price and GM Dave Dombrowski’s former team.
Sox’ starters were 59-60 with a 4.39 ERA. The Kansas City Royals, defending World Series champs, finished 12th in the AL in starters’ ERA (4.34), but they compiled a record of 65-53. Their bullpen finished first in AL ERA and compiled a record of 30-14 which goes to show if you are strong in other areas, you can overcome shortcomings.
The Sox’ relief (4.24 ERA) didn’t fare much better than their starters and finished 13th among the AL.
This Price signing is good for the upcoming 2016 season and looks to be for the foreseeable future. With that said, this has disaster written all over it for the length of the contract and the major money that’s involved.
While Boston is a ‘big-market’ club, and are able to pass out and absorb such lucrative contracts, the trend in baseball has been to shy away from the mega-deals in favor of player development.
We’ve seen the New York Yankees go through this time and time again. Remember the opt-out of Alex Rodriguez during the 2007 World Series? Hindsight is 20/20, and maybe they don’t win the 2009 World Series without him — debatable considering they had so many working parts — or make the 2015 playoffs without him.
Then you consider the drama and fallout over Rodriguez’s PED-usage, the suspension following biogenesis, the hip, the constant New York media, and tabloids documenting every A-Rod move.
The point of this isn’t to say David Price is A-Rod. Far from it. Rather, how much better off would the Yankees have been without A-Rod following his 2007 opt-out? It was Rodriguez’s right to opt-out of the 10-year $252 million contact he signed in 2002 as a member of the Texas Rangers.
He was the 2007 MVP and was 36-years-old. The Yankees had previously said they would not re-sign the slugger if he exercised his right to opt-out, and the decision on A-Rod to opt-out meant the Yankees would lose the $21.3 million subsidy they had in agreement with the Texas Rangers at the time of the 2004 trade.
So naturally the Yankees re-signed A-Rod. Baggage and all. A-Rod was the hottest free agent and he was going to get paid. He would have been someone else’s mess once all the PED-baggage reared its ugly head. Hindsight is 20/20.
CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees the offseason of 2008 and looking over the course of his career in pinstripes, it’s been largely good. Since 2009 he’s 97-56. He decided not to opt-out of his contact following 2011, yet not doing so allowed him to add an extra year to his original 7-year contract.
Between 2013-2015 CC was largely pedestrian, with a record of 23-27 and a 4.81 ERA. Amid the end-of-the season news proclaiming his admittance into alcohol rehab, how great would it be to see CC on his way out of town?
Instead he didn’t opt-out following 2011, but instead agreed to a new deal with New York which ultimately added an additional season and $30 million to his contract. He will be paid $25 million in 2016 and has a vesting option for 2017.
So back to Price.
Elite players are paid for what they have done, not what they’re going to do. This deal goes down as the largest contract ever given to a pitcher in baseball history, and Price will make more than Clayton Kershaw’s 7-year $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers signed in 2014, and Max Scherzer’s 7-year $210 million deal with the Washington Nationals signed last offseason.
Price will make 30 million annually for three seasons, and then Boston will be on the hook for $31 million and then $32 million the last three years of the contract. Price can opt-out after year three.
It’s just hard to imagine giving a pitcher, even that of ace and former Cy Young winner David Price, over $200 million considering he’s already 30-years-old but more importantly, he’s a different pitcher in October.
While he has a cumulative career record of 104-56 and a 3.09 ERA during the regular season, he’s only 2-7 in the playoffs with an ugly 5.12 ERA. His two wins in October have come in relief: his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Rays when he came into his career as a reliever, and this past season, when he lost his spot in the rotation and went three innings in relief for Toronto during the ALDS.
As the case with free agents: buyer beware. Time will tell if the Boston Red Sox bit off more than they can chew.
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