David Price: He’s The Ace

 The Boston Red Sox headed into 2015 without an ace, and the results were not pretty. With the signing of David Price, the top of the rotation will not be an issue for Boston in 2016. Rick Rowand breaks down the deal and what it means for the Red Sox.

Red Sox fans learned a few things late Tuesday afternoon when the news broke that the team had agreed with David Price on a $217 million contract with an opt-out after three years.

So, what did we learn? First, Dave Dombrowski has some rather large balls. We should probably co-opt Bronson Arroyo’s nickname of Saturn Balls for him. Second, John Henry still has a deep pocketbook and will do what it takes to improve the roster and give Red Sox fans a team that should, on paper anyway, be able to compete deep into the playoffs. Third, Dombrowski is a man of his word and he runs a quiet ship.

After the Kimbrel trade he said that the targets were a right-handed fourth outfield bat and a FA starting pitcher to head up the rotation. Check and check. Looking at the team as it stands now it seems that they just need to add some bullpen depth. That is, unless the rumors are true about him trying to move Hanley Ramirez. Not that we’d necessarily hear anything other than idle speculation until the deal actually happens. The Kimbrel trade came out of the blue and, even though everyone “knew” that Price was the target, no one heard anything solid until a few hours before the deal was announced when Jim Bowden said that he’d heard that the Sox won’t let Price get away and projected a deal of seven years and $213.5 million.

The addition of Price to the staff will go a long way toward solidifying a rotation that didn’t start to meet expectations until the second half of the season. As the acquisition of Kimbrel will go a long way to solidify the pen. With pitching staffs you build from the top down.

As it stands now the starting staff is Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Henry Owens. As I’m sure you noticed, that’s seven pitchers. No team wants to go into the season with just five starters because of inevitable injuries and stretches of poor performance.

Out of the seven, Price and Miley are the only two, that you could say with any degree of confidence, should come close to equaling their performances of 2015 in 2016. When healthy, Buchholz has the tools to give you a very good #2. If Porcello and Kelly can keep building on their performances from later in the season, the Sox will have a rotation that will keep them in games and take the pressure off of the bullpen and keep them fresh, but that’s a lot of ifs going into the season.

The Sox also have Owens and Rodriguez who showed they have what it takes to be in the rotation, even though they could both use some time to further develop their secondary pitches. People have talked about moving Kelly to the pen because of his velocity and the movement of his pitches. And some think that Porcello should be traded to save the Sox as much of his $20 million per year salary as possible. But if you have Owens and Rodriguez in Pawtucket as both injury insurance and to work on their secondary pitches, that would take away the necessary depth the rotation needs.

The Price contract is the largest ever given out by the Red Sox and goes against the team philosophy of not signing long term contracts with players over thirty, especially pitchers. David Price just turned 30 this August.

What Price brings to the team is a six-year record of success, all in the American League. In 2008, Price came up to Tampa and pitched in five games, only one as a starter. In 2009 he was up for good and had 23 starts with an ERA of 4.42 and a FIP of 4.59 and a xFIP of  4.43. 2009 would turn out to be the low point of his career so far.

Price has been one of the best pitchers in the American League in the regular season from 2010 on, but his performances in the postseason have left some questioning his ability to pitch in “the big games.” Ian York showed how wrong that opinion is in this article.

But instead of looking at the contract in toto, let’s look at it as two contracts because of the opt out clause, like the ones that CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Alex Rodriguez signed in the recent past. Greinke and A-Rod elected to opt out and become free agents and A-Rod signed a more lucrative contract with the Yankees. Greinke is now the #1 FA starter on the market and should sign one that will increase his yearly salary as well.

Since 2010, Price has averaged 31.67 starts a year and had an ERA of 3.49 or less. He has pitched over 200 innings every season except for 2013, when he started 27 games. His peripherals are all good with a K/9 between 8.11 and 9.82 except for 2013 when it was 7.28. His BB/9 has ranged from a high of 3.41 in 2010 to a low of 1.30 in 2013. His BABIP has been under .300 except in 2014 when was .306.

The first part of the contract is for is for three years at $30m per year and Price will have just turned 33 at the end of the 2018 season. If Price pitches like his history shows he should, and the Sox front office and analytics department predict he will, he would be in line to make more than the $31.75 average per year that he will be owed by the Red Sox for the final four years of his contract. Especially the way salaries for proven starting pitchers are escalating. If he falls off a cliff for some reason and becomes an average pitcher for the next three years then he will opt to stay in Boston and everyone loses except for Price. Looking at his history, however, barring a catastrophic injury this should end up being a very good deal for all parties.

The next time we see those “He’s the ACE” shirts they better have arrows that all point to Price.

stats courtesy of fangraphs.com

contract information courtesy of baseballprospectus.com

Rick Rowand has written about the value of Brock Holt, Boston’s rotationBrock Holt’s cycle and aura, and a series about Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart, a screenplay of Napoli’s last days on the Sox, Travis Shaw, what to do with Hanley Ramirez, and David Ortiz’s career.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a reason for the assumption that Porcello will not regress to the upside?

    FWIW, Steamer projections:

    Price 5.0 WAR
    Porcello 2.8 WAR
    Miley 2.6 WAR
    Buchholz 2.3 WAR
    Rodriguez 1.5 WAR
    Kelley 0.6 WAR
    Owens 0.0 WAR

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