Red Sox Pay the Price

Last year, the Red Sox decided they couldn't afford to return Jon Lester for about $140 million less than they've decided they can afford to bring David Price aboard this year. This isn't to say that Price won't be huge for the Olde Towne Team, of course. But it will be a small headscratcher for a good while.

And can Price do for the Red Sox what he couldn't do with the Tigers last year or the Blue Jays this year? Price pitched impeccably down the stretches for both clubs but he couldn't quite bump them into either year's World Series.

The Red Sox are two years removed from their last World Series rings (hands up to everyone who thought putting things in those terms was a pipe dream entering the current century), and if they landed anything but aces last winter in rebuilding a pitching staff they're throwing big, big dice on Price.

Seven years at $217 million is just about what you might have figured the Price would be for the tall left-hander whose lifetime Fenway Park performance is nothing to make Red Sox Nation anxious.

Through the end of the 2015 season Price kept hitters to a .186 batting average, a .261 on base percentage, and a .289 slugging percentage, with a lifetime Fenway ERA of 1.95. Essentially, in Fenway Park, Price has been Clayton Koufax, or is that Sandy Kershaw.

What might make Red Sox Nation anxious, however, is Price's postseason jacket. He's pitched in 14 lifetime postseason games and has a 5.12 ERA in them; his teams went 1-7 in the postseason games Price started.

Now, though, the Red Sox have made Price wealthier than Clayton Kershaw. His Red Sox deal is $2 million more than the Dodgers began paying Kershaw in 2014 for a seven-year deal and thus becomes the richest contract ever given a pitcher.

But Price is 30, and Kershaw was 26 when he signed his deal. Those who consider a pitcher's age in hand with his ability will note that the Red Sox are banking on Price being better older while the Dodgers banked on getting Kershaw in his near-entire baseball youth; Kershaw will be 33 when the deal expires. Kershaw's deal included an opt-out after five years; Price's has an opt-out after three.

Until landing Price the Red Sox were thought to have eyes for Jordan Zimmermann, the now-former National who signed a five-year deal with the Tigers last week. There were those who thought Zimmermann would be an ideal fit for the Red Sox, with the right mentality to pitch in Boston, but the Red Sox never seemed to show serious interest before Zimmermann accepted $110 million from Detroit.

Perhaps the Red Sox thought to themselves, yes, we like Zimmermann and he'd be just about right for us, but maybe Price is just about more right for us. Perhaps, too, the Red Sox were really angling to make a returning-spacecraft-type splash this winter after coming up what proved to be too short last winter.

Last winter, the Red Sox gambled that a rotation full of good arms with future upside with no as-yet-known ace could put something together, and they lost that gamble vividly enough. For the season to come, the Red Sox can put Price up front in the wake of landing Craig Kimbrel to take over the closing duties from aging Koji Uehara and lead a promising pen.

The Boston Globe thinks the Red Sox aren't quite done yet, Peter Abraham suggesting they have the pitching and prospect depth to deal for another front-end starter. (Matt Harvey of the Mets has been whispered as such a candidate, though the Mets at this writing don't seem to inclined to move him for now.)

But the question is whether president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski — who has a game-wide reputation for selling the farm in bids to win like yesterday, and who was canned by the Tigers after he dealt Price at the 2015 non-waiver deadline, once the Tigers were out of contention for keeps — will fail to draw a line and thus live up to that rep yet again.

What a difference a year makes. Last winter, then-general manager Ben Cherington worked with two orders, essentially: Protect the farm and don't even think about investing long-term in pitchers 30-something or approaching it. Cherington did as ordered. It kept the Red Sox from thinking about sneaking out of the basement, but didn't keep Cherington from thinking about taking a hike when Dombrowski was hired.

Dombrowski is said to be thinking about trying to move Hanley Ramirez, with the possible targets being the Orioles, the Angels, or the Mariners, all of whom could use a proven outfielder, though whether they think they can manage a problematic player who has become a liability with the glove is something else entirely.

The Red Sox have also just signed Chris Young, whom they seem to like as a fourth outfielder (though he started and played well for the Yankees in 2015), but some observers think it also means the Red Sox could flip a piece of their apparent outfield depth for help elsewhere. With David Ortiz having announced he would retire after 2016, the Red Sox have to be thinking about a future full-time DH as well.

Still, the Price signing bodes mostly well for the Red Sox. It'll have to. Since losing Lester in a non-waiver trade deadline deal in 2014 and then losing out on re-signing him on the open market last winter, they're 110-115 with a pair of last-place American League East finishes.

It also leaves the Cubs (who landed Lester last year), the Cardinals, and the Dodgers, all of whom were thought to have eyes for Price, all of whom want to fortify their own rotations, back on the hunt. Getting Price to make nice with Ortiz, with whom there's been a little bad blood dating back to Price's early seasons in Tampa Bay, may be child's play by comparison.

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