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Should Red Sox really want David Price to opt-out?

Rob Bradford
August 24, 2018 - 11:18 am

It used to be a pretty simple equation.

If David Price didn't pitch well, or even just OK, he was sticking around for another four years beyond this season. But if he caught fire, that opportunity to opt-out was going come into play. He undoubtedly wanted to escape Boston and fans would be more than willing to have the Red Sox take that $97 million and allocate it elsewhere.

Well, Price is pitching really, really well. As he points out, like the pitcher Boston thought it was signing. So, this where the Red Sox fandom appreciates the efforts for the current season while organizing the farewell party, right? It's not that simple.

It's still complicated, but there is certainly a case to made for actually wanting Price to stick around.

Let's start with what Price has currently become.

After his eight innings of shutout baseball Thursday the numbers suggest Price has vaulted into something we really haven't seen for an extended period of time since he joined the Sox. Over his last seven starts, he has totaled a 1.50 ERA with the Red Sox having won each of the games. The lefty has struck out struck out exactly one batter per inning (48), walking seven and not holding opponents to a .201 batting average against.

That's all well and good. But can he continue to do this for, let's say, the next three years?

Some suggest that such a pattern isn't out of the question, in large part because Price may have found a way to evolve while cruising past his 33rd birthday.

"Everyone was saying David Price's velocity was done. Well, today it was up. As soon as you say he can't, he will," said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie. "It's best not to say it because he's a really good pitcher and really effective doing a lot of different things. He made some adjustments here of late and it's working. It's not to say he can't be the same guy he was in Detroit or Tampa, same results. Just a little bit different."

If that is the case, and this isn't going to be the pitcher who desperately needs top-notch velocity to succeed (his fastball averages about 2 mph less than in previous seasons), then maybe they are on to something. But that's only part of the equation.

There is, of course, that elbow. When talking about teams potentially matching the Red Sox' four-year commitment after this season there always had to be a caveat thanks to any impending MRI. Would it scare off potential suitors? Perhaps. But after last season's shutdown, there remains remarkably few hiccups when it comes to that aspect of Price's health, at least suggesting there has been an accepted method to manage that left arm.

Another concern when it comes to Price's existence in Boston is the Red Sox having to allocate that chunk of change to the uncertainty that is the pitcher. That's also a legitimate issue with decision-time coming up with J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello, Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale over the next few years.

But if Sale doesn't re-sign, or has physical hiccups (like the one he's currently going through), there is going to be a need for some reliable top-of-the-rotation talent. And while he likes of Eduardo Rodriguez and some of the minor-leaguers offer hope that such a starter can be uncovered in the coming years, we have the built-in existence of Price. Not a perfect existence, but one that has at least proven itself, as we are being reminded.

And don't just assume that the Red Sox can roll over the money to another free agent ace. Think you're getting a bargain with a pitcher? Usually, you end up with someone just as uncertain as Price (see Johnny Cueto). Trade? Good luck finding the Michael Kopech/Yoan Moncada package in this farm system to pry away a no-doubt ace.

This remains an utterly imperfect scenario going forward, and perhaps the one-step-forward-three-steps-back existence that Price has lived through in this market might be something many just can't get past. But this is about trying to find a life for this organization beyond 2019, and Price's continued presence is at least becoming the kind of conversation we haven't had ... well, maybe ever.