In lefty David Price, Boston Red Sox may have found right player to shower with money
Some quick thoughts on the Red Sox’s signing of free-agent left-hander David Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract Tuesday, pending a physical:
● Price’s decision emphatically answered the questions about whether he was willing to play in Boston and become a teammate of his old antagonist, David Ortiz.
Of course he was willing, considering that the Red Sox made the best offer, to the surprise of no one in the industry. And maybe the best offer by a lot.
Price’s contract will not include any deferred money, according to major-league sources. It also includes an opt-out after three years, giving him the ability to become a free agent again when he is 33.
The runners-up rarely reveal the amounts of their failed bids, but suffice it to say that the Red Sox blew away the field, making Price an offer he essentially could not refuse.
● As for whether Price will be comfortable with the Red Sox, it’s a reasonable concern; Boston can be one of the most difficult markets for players, particularly expensive free agents who fail to perform to expectations (see: Carl Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez).
Well, Price certainly is not afraid; the great ones always are confident in their abilities. But he also has a track record of adapting to new circumstances, having done it twice previously after getting traded to the Tigers and then the Blue Jays.
The first trade initially left Price unsettled — he had spent his entire career with the Rays. But he adjusted well enough to persuade Dave Dombrowski — the Tigers’ former GM who is now president of the Red Sox — to later pursue him again, at the price of $217 million. Price made an even smoother transition to the Jays, having been traded once before.
The circumstances obviously will be different now. Price will carry the burden of his contract. His easy-going nature figures to be tested by the white-hot Boston intensity. Still, the two trades gave him a foundation, one that should serve him well in his new home.
● Shortly after the news on Price broke, a rival GM texted me and said, “I’m a Dave Dombrowski fan but could Ben (Cherington) not have handled the (Craig) Kimbrel and Price moves?”
Cherington took the fall for the Red Sox’s miserable 2015 season, and his signings of Ramirez and Sandoval certainly were mistakes. But ownership did not allow him to pursue an ace — remember the Sox’s initial lowball offer to Jon Lester? Ownership, until very recently, opposed expensive long-term contracts for pitchers in their 30s.
Oh, and those four prospects Dombrowski traded for Kimbrel? All entered the Red Sox system during Cherington’s tenure as GM. Perhaps Cherington would have been more protective of his own players. But at the very least, he put the Red Sox in position to make the Kimbrel deal.
● So, how good will the Red Sox be in 2016? It’s far too early to say, but Dombrowski already has made three significant acquisitions — Price, Kimbrel and outfielder Chris Young. And all are considered to have excellent makeups.
The signing of Young to a two-year, $13 million free-agent contract gives Dombrowski the flexibility to trade Jackie Bradley or — less likely — Rusney Castillo. Then again, Young also represents insurance if those players are injured or fail.
The signing of Price, as pointed out by the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, creates similar depth in the rotation, making it possible for the Sox to trade a starter. But Dombrowski might prefer to keep his pitching intact instead.
Trading Ramirez should remain at the top of the team’s to-do list — the Sox are insisting that Ramirez will play first base because, well, what else can they say right now? But even if Ramirez is back, there is only so much damage he can do to such a talented club.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia should be healthy. Ortiz will be motivated to make his farewell tour a success. Young players such as outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts are only getting better.
Then there is Price, a pitcher with a career 3.17 ERA and .659 opponents’ OPS against AL East foes — and those numbers include only three starts against his former club, the offensively challenged Rays.
The Red Sox are winning the winter, but many of us said that last offseason, didn’t we? Let’s see the rest of the puzzle. Let’s see if all the pieces fit.