It was so obvious even Stevie Wonder could see it (apparently Ben Charrington couldn’t). The one thing missing from the 2015 Red Sox was an ace. Yes, they had a plan that having five guys who were all 2’s, 3’s and 4’s would mean that an ace was not needed. That plan failed miserably.
Rick Porcello was worth nowhere near the money that gave him as an extension, Joe Kelly was an unmitigated disaster until he came back from the minors after being sent down, Wade Miley continued his descent into mediocrity, Clay Bucholz is a guy who can throw a no-no or give up 5 runs in the first. The only bright spots on the staff was the chance to see the three top prospects in the system, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Henry Owens. All three of them had their moments, but none of them has the stuff or make-up to be an ace.
So this off-season, the Sox and new GM Dave Dombrowski had two options, sign a free agent from one of the best free agent pitching classes we’ve seen in a while, or trade from their excess of good youngsters (Chris Sale, Sonny Gray & Stephen Strasburg could all be available for the right package). But whichever route they chose, the Sox HAD to do something.
So on the first day of December, about a week before the Winter Meetings, strike they did when they landed the best lefty on the free agent market, David Price. He is a former Cy Young winner (he was the runner up in 2015 to Dallas Keuchel), he has pitched in the AL East for most of his career, and he led the AL in ERA last season. All that was able to land him a seven-year deal worth $217 million.
Now, while he is an ace, the news Red Sox fans probably do not want to hear is that over the last 4 seasons when Price has faced the Yankees, he is 6-4 with a 4.42 ERA and the Bronx Bombers hit him at a .287 clip. Not the kind of numbers you want from a guy who you are paying over $30 mil a year to. Add that to the fact that the Green Monster is pretty close to home plate, I am not so sure paying a lefty that much money to pitch his home games at Fenway
But other than the Price family, and his agent, there are two other guys who LOVE this deal. Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto. Using Price as a baseline, Greinke, who is a better pitcher than Price, should be able to start his negotiations at 5 years and $160 million (his age precludes him from getting a 7 year deal like Price).
Meanwhile, Cueto who already turned down a 6-year $120 million deal from the D-Backs, now is in the cat-bird seat, as he should be able to get at least the 6/$135 he was asking for. He may or may not be worth it, but once Grienke signs (with either the Dodgers or Giants); Cueto becomes the best pitcher on the open market, which means some team desperate for an ace will overpay him.
But back to Price and Sox, I know I just spent the better part of this column bashing them for the way they overspent on Price, but there is a bright side. With this move, Clay Bucholz becomes a two starter, which suits him much better. Then you’ll have Rick Porcello as your three, Wade Miley as your four, and Joe Kelly, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez battling it out for the 5th spot.
They also added Craig Kimbrel to shorten it to an 8 inning game now, and all of a sudden the last-place 78-win Red Sox should be the co-favorite (with the Blue Jays) to win their division. The only issue becomes what to do with Hanley Ramirez.
While his bat still plays and can be very potent, he has no spot in the field (they are going to try him at first base this season), and according to my sources is also one of the more derisive personalities in the clubhouse. Not the kind of player a team with championship aspirations needs. They have been looking to try and deal him, but the issue is they gave him such a large contract that they will have to eat most of it for another team to take him, and there aren’t any teams right now looking to take him.
I have to believe that this is just an appetizer for what the Red Sox and the other 29 teams are going to do next week in Nashville. If that’s the case, the hot stove will be the perfect cure for the winter blues.