Taking another look at David Price's trade market

Rob Bradford
December 16, 2019 - 10:17 am

The Red Sox have agreed to terms with a couple of free agents: infielder Jose Peraza and pitcher Martin Perez. That’s $9 million spent. It’s fair to say Chaim Bloom’s team is not representative of what Major League Baseball has become this offseason.

Almost everywhere else the money and players have been flying around via higher-than-expected free-agent deals along with a few shock-and-awe trades. 

But just because the Sox haven’t been in the middle of the meat and potatoes of the transaction log doesn’t mean they are eliminated from the team-building conversations. One thing leads to another and so on, with the Red Sox eventually finding their way to an end-game with some of their most important decisions.

David Price, for instance.

Price is perceived as the path to financial freedom for the Red Sox, with the team willing to pare down the commitment any team trading for him to about three years, $60 million — shaving more than $30 million off what is actually owed the 34-year-old.

Unfortunately for the Sox, this most likely represents the ultimate waiting game.

The Phillies got their top-of-the-rotation starter (Zack Wheeler), as did the Yankees (Gerrit Cole), Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), Rangers (Corey Kluber) and Diamondbacks (Madison Bumgarner). There were others who committed $10 million or more to starters for 2020. The Blue Jays signed Tanner Roark, the Mets inked Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda went to the Twins and the Braves reeled in Cole Hamels.

It’s not stopping here. More teams are looking for those starters. One major league executive who has been in the middle of these sort of trade talks estimated the Twins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Padres, Dodgers, White Sox and Braves were still among the clubs with money and the desire to find rotation anchors.

So, where does that leave the Red Sox and Price?

If the Red Sox lefty’s health wasn’t a question it would be an easier conversation. Some forget how good Price was before the All-Star break, totaling a 3.24 ERA and minuscule .648 OPS against in his first 16 starts last season. The control of three years would be seen as an asset, particularly at $20 million a year (which is just $2.5 million more than Kluber will be getting next season).

Teams such as the Diamondbacks and Rangers might have actually entertained Price as an option if they missed out on Bumgarner and Kluber, respectively. But they didn’t. The Price situation is unique, which is why he is being pushed down the priority list by those teams in the starting pitching market.

The next on the list will be free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu, followed by Dallas Keuchel. 

The soon-to-be-33-year-old Ryu is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to get three years, $54 million, which is right in the neighborhood of a Price commitment. Ryu also has a bunch of injuries on his resume but is coming off a season in which he posted the lowest ERA in the National League. There is certainly a case to be made for Price over Ryu considering what the Sox lefty did while pitching in the American League East. But last impressions (and not having to give up a player) can be a powerful thing.

Keuchel is slotted in at three years, $39 million by MLBTR, obviously, a lower commitment than it would take to get Price. In this case, it would depend on what teams are looking for. In terms of locking in on a pitcher who can be a legitimate ace-type when healthy, Price would probably be the one prioritized here. But, again … there is that unique elbow, cyst on the wrist and carpal tunnel over the few seasons.

After those two Price bests the rest of the free-agent market when it comes to presenting a top-of-the-rotation market. But that isn’t likely where the Red Sox’ biggest competition will come from when it comes to finding a trade partner. Teams heading into the final year of control with starting pitchers also are smelling blood in the water when it comes to the popularity of starters among teams with money to spend.

This is where the Sox might have to get in line.

Take Arizona’s Robbie Ray, for instance. With Bumgarner onboard, Mike Hazen is now free to shop a 28-year-old pitcher who will cost one of the aforementioned teams just more than $10 million and represents the potential for a top-of-the-rotation presence. Kluber was first in this respect, and others (such as Ray) may follow.