The Cincinnati Reds rumors are never going to stop, and I guess that’s a good thing since that means they are actively trying to find ways to improve their team. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported earlier this afternoon that the Reds are “among the teams in play” for left-handed pitcher David Price.
When it comes to David Price there are a whole lot of factors to look at. First is why the Boston Red Sox are trying to move him. Second would be his contract status. Third would be his performance and expected performance moving forward. And fourth would be what the price of acquisition would be.
Why are the Red Sox trying to trade David Price?
This one is rather simple, if not quite dumb. The Red Sox are trying to cut payroll despite the fact that they can print money. Boston is trying to get under the luxury tax threshold and being able to move at least some of the Price deal would help get them there.
David Price’s Contract Status
Until a week ago, David Price had the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Both Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole has surpassed that one this week. There are three years remaining on that contract, with no buy out or opt out available. Price is owed $32,000,000 in each of those three seasons. That’s $96,000,000 for those of you keeping track at home. It would cover his age 34, 35, and 36 seasons.
Past and Future Performance
At one point in time, David Price was arguably the best pitcher in the game of baseball. Those days aren’t today. But even now, he’s a pretty good pitcher. At least that is when he’s on the mound. Going back to 2017 he’s missed a lot of time. He’s had 63 starts and five relief appearances in the last three seasons. In that stretch he’s posted a 3.75 ERA – good for an ERA+ of 122. But that ERA has been trending in the wrong direction, going from 3.38 to 3.58 to 4.28 last season. For context, that 4.28 ERA last year was still good for a 113 ERA+, meaning he’s still above-average when on the mound.
In the 2019 season David Price missed a whole lot of bats, striking out 128 hitters in 107.1 innings. He also didn’t walk many hitters, handing out 32 free passes on the season. That’s always a good combination.
What’s not exactly a good thing is that he’s been losing velocity for years now. In 2015 he averaged 95 MPH on his fastball. It was down to 92.4 MPH last season. With that said, his fastball, cutter, and curveball all rate out as average or better pitches still. It’s the change up that’s taken a big hit over the last two seasons.
Steamer Projections at Fangraphs have David Price posting a 4.17 ERA in 164.0 innings next season, providing 2.6 WAR along the way. The Marcels Projection system is right there with ERA, giving him a 4.15 ERA but in 130.0 innings for the 2020 season.
The Cost of Acquiring David Price
This is where things are difficult. It seems that everyone and their grandmother is speculating that no one is going to take on David Price by himself. The issue is that no one really seems to have a good feel of what it would take for teams to actually make that kind of trade. Would the Red Sox have to eat a large chunk of his salary? And if so, how much? $10M a year? HALF?
Or would the Red Sox be willing to add in a young player such as Andrew Benintendi in order to get a team to take on the scale of the David Price contract? Could things get real wild and see some team take on both David Price and Mookie Betts, who has also reportedly been on the market for the same reason that Price is? No one really knows what is actually being asked for in return from Boston to help them move money around.
What we do know is that the Reds have looked at it to see what the cost is. They continue to try and upgrade their pitching staff, and David Price would certainly do that. The question for now is whether it makes sense to get a deal done. Without knowing any more details it’s nearly an impossible question to answer.