Toronto Blue Jays Were Smart Not To Pay David Price
David Price is the ace the Toronto Blue Jays needed to get to the post-season and contend for a World Series title. The fans, the city, the province, and the entire country fell in love with David Price and his infectious personality. It was the first time the Blue Jays had seen a legit #1 starter since Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays had flirts with potential aces in Ricky Romero (2011), Brandon Morrow (on talent alone), Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey. Price was exactly what the Blue Jays needed.
Alex Anthopoulos knew that acquiring Price would come at a cost of likely only having him until the end of October when he hit free agency. The prospect cost was Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt, and Daniel Norris. Boyd doesn’t appear to be much more than a fringe 5th starter, Labourt is a few years away, and Norris has dealt with inconsistency but has a very high ceiling. Three pitching prospects and likely losing out on Price at seasons end was a steep cost but as the season ended and sellout crowds were as rowdy as ever, especially with Price pitching, there was a bit of hope that perhaps Toronto had a shot at re-signing him.
The Blue Jays were treated to 11 regular season starts from Price where he had a 9-1 record, a 2.30 ERA (2.22 FIP, 2.89 xFIP) and a 2.7 fWAR. In 21 starts with the Detroit Tigers in 2015, Price had an fWAR of 3.7. He nearly matched that with the Blue Jays in 11 fewer starts. Add on to the fact that Price defeated the New York Yankees in 3 of his 4 starts against them. It is easy to see why Toronto fell in love with him.
When it came to playoff time, David Price quickly became the Blue Jays 3rd best starter behind Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada. Price has never experienced much success in the post-season and that continued in Toronto where he made 4 appearances (3 starts) and posted an ugly 6.17 ERA. Price never had much success in his career to begin with against the Texas Rangers. He looked a lot more like himself in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals until the 7th inning rolled around. In Game 6, Price was himself and gave the Blue Jays a chance to win but we know what happened after he left.
Remove the ALDS and Price actually was pretty good in the post-season but when it boils down to it, Stroman and Estrada were both better. It was just a few weeks ago the Blue Jays and their fans saw their ace pitcher almost win the Cy Young. He came second behind the rightful winner, Dallas Keuchel. After several Twitter accounts and websites popped up to show Price the impact he made on the country of Canada, it was all settled today where his destination would be. David Price signed a 7 year, $217 million contract with AL East rival Boston Red Sox.
The loss of an ace stings but it wasn’t unexpected. The fact Price signed with an AL East rival makes it a bit more than just a sting. It’s tough to see Price go to Boston but I truly believe the Blue Jays were very smart not to pay David Price an AAV of $31 million. That is a lot of coin for Price. It’s the highest AAV of any starter in the entire MLB. While Price is usually a perennial Cy Young candidate, he is definitely not the best starting pitcher in baseball.
The contact for Price breaks down as $30 million in 2016, $30 million, $30 million, $31 million in 2019, $32 million in 2020, $32 million and $32 million. Price can walk away from the Red Sox after 3 years should he wish to hit free agency again. All of those years are way too expensive. Price will be 37 at the end of his contract with the Red Sox should he remain in Boston that long.
For his career, Price has thrown 1441.2 innings with a 104-56 record, 8.57 K/9, 2.32 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9, 3.09 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, and a career 32.0 fWAR. According to fWAR, since Price’s first full season as a starter (23 starts in 2009), he is the 6th best starter in the MLB trailing Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw. There’s no denying Price is elite.
So you may be asking right now, why wouldn’t the Blue Jays pony up the money and keep Price around long term? There are some serious red flags I will address.
Price is a workhorse. No doubt about that. He has thrown 1441.2 innings in his big league career. That is a ton of innings for a starting pitcher. Once you get to the wrong side of 30, the slow deterioration begins for an arm that has thrown as many innings as Price has. Price’s best pitch by far is his fastball which he can cut. At 19.7 runs above average, Price’s fastball is really good. Once he loses velocity on his fastball, which has actually already begun, Price then needs to rely on his secondary stuff which isn’t the greatest. Price’s curveball is barely above average at 1.7. His changeup is 10.5. However, as we saw in the post-season, Price got burned by the Royals by throwing his changeup. He couldn’t adjust to the adjustments the Royals made back to him. That was Price’s undoing in Game 2 of the ALCS.
For a guy who relies so much on his fastball like Price does, as soon as the fastball starts to slow down from age related deterioration, Price looks a whole lot more normal. Age and innings thrown will start to show in Price and he will need to rely on his secondary pitches, all of which burned him in the post-season.
Go back a few years and watch some film on David Price when he was with the Rays. You’ll notice that Price had a much bigger windup and he followed through all the way on his pitches. That is the way you’re taught to throw a baseball. Follow all the way through until your pitching arm is nearly touching your back on the opposite side of your throwing hand. Of course, not all big leaguers throw like that. There are those who don’t and still experience success but it may not be for as long as conventional windups and follow through.
Watch film of David Price the past few seasons now. You’ll notice his abbreviated side step delivery and the recoil motion in his follow through. Price doesn’t follow through on his pitches anymore. He corks his arm backwards instead of following all the way through. The big red flag there is the fact his arm moves so quick and to suddenly stop it from its natural motion of following through can lead to injury and accelerated deterioration. Combine the innings, age, and delivery, Price will start dropping off in performance at a much quicker pace than most unless mechanical adjustments are made. This is a big red flag.
Blue Jays Current Depth
The Blue Jays currently have a young 24 year old ace in the making in Marcus Stroman. Stroman’s journey back from his torn ACL was very impressive as was his 2014 season when he was worth 3.0 wins. Stroman has all the potential to be a dominant #1 for the Blue Jays. After all, HDMH (height doesn’t measure heart).
Marco Estrada was fantastic in his first season as a Blue Jay. He saved the Blue Jays season twice in the post-season and flirted with 2 no hitters. There are some nay-sayers and doubters of Estrada but his success is largely tied to the development of his cut fastball and throwing his curveball more. It also helps when you have what is arguably one of the best changeups in baseball.
R.A. Dickey as of now is back for 2016. Though, he could be moved. If he is not, all you need out of Dickey is 200.0+ innings and a respectable 3.75-4.00 ERA. We saw Dickey at his best as a Blue Jay in the 2nd half of 2015.
J.A. Happ returns to the Blue Jays. He returned with a ton of angry Blue Jays fans. What they don’t realize is that Happ is not nearly the same pitcher he was when he left Toronto. When with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Happ posted the NL’s 3rd best ERA from August 1st to the end of the season and played a large role in getting the Pirates to the post-season. Happ worked with pitching coach Ray Searage on his release points and it worked wonders. The Blue Jays are banking on Happ’s adjustments.
The Blue Jays then have many avenues they can go with the #5 starter. Candidates are Jesse Chavez, Drew Hutchison, and Aaron Sanchez. If they don’t add another starting pitcher, one of these three likely enters the rotation. Any of these three as a #5 are more than capable.
Keep in mind it is only December 1st. The Blue Jays will in all likelihood add another starting pitcher.
Would you like to see Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion with the Blue Jays beyond 2016? I sure would. Both are eligible for free agency at the end of 2016 and both would be in for massive paydays. The money saved from not bringing back Price could likely go to keeping one of the two around long term
How about the MVP, Josh Donaldson? Despite being under club control until 2019 through arbitration, wouldn’t you like to see him locked up? Donaldson has made it clear he wants to be a Blue Jay long term. A superstar saying that is quite exciting for the city of Toronto. He definitely will command a massive raise in this year’s arbitration and I would hope the Blue Jays lock up Josh Donaldson long term.
The Boston Red Sox are definitely going to enjoy David Price over the next 2, maybe 3 seasons. The Blue Jays are going to enjoy not paying Price over $30 million per season for the next potentially seven years.
David Price is a talent. But he is a talent that has some serious concerns as I outlined above. The Blue Jays couldn’t operate the way they are currently built by having Price around at that much money over the next several seasons. In the end, the selling point to me is having Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, the MVP, and hopefully both Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion until 2019-2020. With Price, that wouldn’t be possible. The Blue Jays also have Stroman and multiple other young arms with some veterans mixed in that can easily get the job done at a much cheaper price.
The Blue Jays were smart not to bring back David Price.