Following back-to-back seasons of last-place finishes in the American League (AL) East, the Red Sox splashed the cash early in the offseason, signing free agent David Price to a record-breaking 7-year, $217 million deal. This deal makes the left-handed ace the highest paid pitcher in the history of major league baseball and the first pitcher with a ‘one million dollar per start’ price tag.
David Price has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the AL. Each season since 2010, he has won double-digit regular season games, and has pitched at least 200 innings in all but one year (186.2 in 2013). Price won the AL Cy Young award in 2010 and has finished second in voting twice, most recently in 2015, where he led the American League with a 2.45 ERA en route to an 18-5 record.
Price’s numbers at Fenway Park are impressive too. In 11 regular season games at Fenway, he has held opponents to a mere .186 batting average. Price is a hard-throwing strike-thrower with a career record of 8.6 strikeouts per innings pitched and a 3.6 strikeout/walk ratio. In many ways, Price represents the perfect fit to be the leader of the rotation in Boston, a rotation that boasts the highly talented Eduardo Rodriguez, veterans Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly.
The deal, however, was in many ways uncharacteristic of the Red Sox organization. The John Henry-Tom Werner ownership have strictly stayed away from offering multi-year mega-contracts to pitchers over 30. No exception was made even for the much-loved Jon Lester, who signed with the Cubs last offseason. The team’s failure to sign a true top-of-the-rotation ace and its poor performance in the ensuing season could have made the Boston front office rethink its approach in Price’s case. It was perhaps to make such bold, decisive moves that the Red Sox hired new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski did not shy away from giving Miguel Cabrera the richest contract in baseball or making Justin Verlander the then highest-paid pitcher while he was in Detroit, and he sure did not waste time landing an ace in David Price and an all-star closer in Craig Kimbrel.
Some doubted whether Price would join the Boston team, since he had been part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, a bitter division rival of the Red Sox, for many years. Things got heated between Price and Big Papi when the left handed slugger took him deep in a 2013 divisional round playoff game, and escalated further when Price drilled Ortiz the first time they faced each other in 2014. But all seems forgotten now as both players look to reconcile and help Boston reach the pinnacle of baseball once again in what will be the final chapter of David Ortiz’s hall-of-fame career.
The other major skepticism about Price was his rather pedestrian numbers in the postseason. When asked about his postseason struggles at his inaugural press conference in Boston, he quipped, “I was saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox.”
There is plenty for Red Sox fans to be optimistic about in 2016, including the chance to see one of today’s most dominant pitchers take the mound every five days. Incidentally, David Price will be donning the No. 24 jersey. You might recall another high profile free-agent signing from the last decade who also donned the No. 24 jersey for the Red Sox. Well, we all know how that turned out. If Price can have the same impact Manny Ramirez had in Boston, it promises to be another decade of AL East titles, postseason appearances, and hopefully more duck boat parades.