The Dodgers have whiffed at starting pitcher this offseason after vowing to pursue the available free agent arms. Could David Price be the best option left?
After failing to bring in the top three available starting pitchers in Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner, the team has plenty of money left to spend, but seemingly no valuable free agents to spend it on. Hyun-Jin Ryu is likely to garner a longer deal than the Dodgers are willing to offer him and Dallas Keuchel might be too small potatoes for a team that is seeking an ace-type, or at least a viable three starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
Insert David Price. Even though his results over the last few seasons has been closer to that of Keuchel than of Kershaw, he has the pedigree, the salary, and the connection to the Dodgers that makes him one of the more logical available options for LA’s rotation.
Let’s start with the pedigree and his recent numbers.
Price, who will turn 35 years old during the 2020 season, is still one of the more noteworthy left-handed starters in the game. According to Fangraphs, his average fastball/sinker velocity still sits above 92mph. In 2019, the 6-foot-5 southpaw started 22 games for the Boston Red Sox with a 4.28 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, and more than a strikeout per inning. These are not spectacular numbers, but they are made especially poor due to a bevy of home runs allowed and a clunker of a second half.
The 2018 World Series champion began the season on a roll. He finished up the first half with a 3.24 ERA and 95 punchouts over 83.1 innings. In fact, his 2019 first half was his best in terms of ERA and HR/9 since his 2015 season with the Detroit Tigers.
In the second half, the home run rate ballooned and so too did his ERA. Wrist issues hampered his second half, as he only threw 24 innings, but the numbers certainly let fans know something was off with the 2012 AL Cy Young award winner. In those 24 innings, Price allowed a 7.88 ERA, allowing eight home runs and an opponent batting average of .327.
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This collapse mirrored that of the Red Sox, which meant Price missed his first postseason since 2012. While that certainly does not bode well for the Red Sox, it makes for an interesting opportunity for LA.
If Boston decides to cut ties with Price, he has three years and $96 million left on his seven-year mega-deal that began back in 2016. Price is certainly no longer worth that outlandish price tag, but if he were to be attached to another Red Sox star, the Dodgers may be more willing to pay the majority of that remaining money.
For much of the offseason, rumors linking the Dodgers to the Red Sox star Mookie Betts have continued to surface. Betts only has the 2020 season left before he hits free agency, and while his asking price will be steep, the Dodgers could try and dampen the blow by attaching Price to any potential trade with the Red Sox.
The Dodgers may be more inclined than most to trust Price as well. Besides a sort of desperate need for a strong starter to fill out an inexperienced rotation, Price is one of few available pitchers with massive amounts of postseason experience. As I mentioned earlier, he’s missed just one postseason since the 2013 season began, amassing nearly 100 career postseason innings. Even though, like Kershaw, Price largely struggled in October early in his career, he’s only allowed 10 runs across his last 32.2 postseason innings. That includes the 26.2 innings he threw to help the BoSox take down the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.
Not only is Price familiar with beating LA in the postseason, LA’s Andrew Friedman helped develop Price during his formative seasons in Tampa Bay with the Rays, the franchise that used the first overall pick in the 2007 Draft on Price.
To make matters even better for the Dodgers, there is precedent surrounding an LA-Boston swap that involves cash and stars headed to Hollywood with youth and money headed back to the East Coast… Remember the 2012 trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett? The Dodgers added $250 million-plus in that deal, and as a result, gave up very little by way of prospects. Though this deal arguably involves a bigger centerpiece in Betts and less money overall, the precedent is surely in place for these two franchises to get a deal of this structure done.
With ties to Price’s postseason accomplishments, his early-career stay in Tampa Bay, and his hefty price tag, the Dodgers may be one of the few teams that could logically add Price this offseason.