Baseball history was made when David Price put pen to paper, signing a seven year agreement worth a whopping $217MM. That’s a $31MM average annual salary, officially making Price the highest paid pitcher of all-time.
But given the recent emphasis on having an ace atop a rotation, that cost may become the new norm. We’ll see it in action when Greinke eventually signs a deal similar in average annual salary to that of Price.
Naturally, when a player signs a blockbuster contract of this magnitude, the question pops up, is he really worth it? For the Red Sox, the answer is yes, and then some.
Full disclosure – I’m a Red Sox fan. You could say that makes me naturally biased, and perhaps that’s true, but I’m also a Red Sox fan that saw this team sign Carl Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez to monster contracts in the past five years. And we all know how those turned out. So if anyone should be skeptical of another marquee free agent signing, it’s me.
But that’s what makes Price so perfect for the Red Sox – I don’t feel nervous about this signing one bit. Let’s run down the list of why Price is easily the best fit for the now-formerly ace-starved Boston Red Sox.
Between the high-octane offenses of the AL East competitors and the not-so-friendly-to-pitchers confines of Fenway Park, few pitchers could come to Boston with a better resumé than David Price. After all, three of the top four offenses in baseball in 2015 (by runs scored) belonged to the AL East. Fortunately for Price, he’s joining one of those three teams, and the rest have been no match for him in the past.
Career at Yankee Stadium (Yankees): 3.27 ERA, 8.7 K/9, .691 opponent OPS
Career at Tropicana Field (Rays): 2.89 ERA, 8.6 K/9, .615 opponent OPS
Career at Rogers Centre (Blue Jays): 3.34 ERA, 8.6 K/9, .678 opponent OPS
Career at Camden Yards (Orioles): 3.24 ERA, 8.6 K/9, .690 OPS
And the most telling of them all:
Career at Fenway Park (Red Sox): 1.95 ERA, 7.3 K/9, .550 opponent OPS
So David Price can handle the rigors of the AL East. He can handle Fenway Park. That much we know, and that’s an issue we can put to rest.
More Clutch Than You Think
David Price doesn’t just have the stuff of an ace; he’s got the makeup as well. Teammates rave about him as fiercely competitive and a positive clubhouse presence—music to Boston’s ears after the Sandoval and Hanley debacles.
But his presence is felt on the field just as much, and he shines in the clutch. In games defined as “Late and Close”, Price ramped up his game to allow a meager .228/.273/.335 opponent slash line. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Price shows similar dominance, allowing just a .230/.286/.355 line.
Critics are quick to point out his dreadful postseason record: a career 2-7 record with an accompanying 5.12 ERA. There’s no sugar-coating it—David Price has not shown up in the playoffs. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he can’t break out with success in coming postseasons or that he can’t handle the pressure. It’s been done. By all indications, by his makeup and late-game statistics, David Price is a big-game pitcher. He’ll certainly be pitching in big games for the Red Sox over the life of his contract.
But tarnishing Price’s 1441.2 stellar career regular season innings in favor of a mediocre 63.1 isn’t fair. In fact, it’s the equivalent of saying that we can all ignore Pablo Sandoval’s 2015 season with Boston, because his postseason track record says he’ll turn into Babe Ruth come October. Neither expectation is just or fair on the player. Postseason stats are what they are: meaningful at the time, but not to be looked into too much when a team needs to focus on making the postseason first. After all, Boston has only seen October baseball in one out of the last five seasons.
Worth the Price – and More
$31MM per year. That’s almost a million dollars per start that Price will be making for seven years. That’s over $86 per second every time David Price takes the hill on a game day. The point is, it’s a lot of money.
So, how much is Price worth? To come to the best conclusion, we have to look at what Price has been worth. And it’s more than you think.
According to Fangraphs, based on his WAR, this is just how much the 30-year old has been worth to his team since 2010:
|Year||WAR||Value (millions of $)|
The first thing to notice here is his upward trend in WAR, an encouraging sign for Boston. But how about those gaudy numbers in the last two years? Price has been worth nearly 170% of what the Red Sox are going to be paying him, and they’re paying him a lot of money. To use the vastly over-used pun: the Price is certainly right for the Red Sox.
In the end, the Red Sox got their guy. David Price fits the mold of a Red Sox ace in every way, both on the field and off of it. He was the best option, the tested option, and the only option.
Let the Battle for Greinke begin.