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Red Sox lefty Price drawing trade interest

@IanMBrowne
December 16, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The way the elite pitching market is moving (Stephen Strasburg signed a record-setting deal to stay with the Nationals and Gerrit Cole is set to break that record with his Yankees deal) could have a significant ripple effect on the Red Sox. It appears likely that some

SAN DIEGO -- The way the elite pitching market is moving (Stephen Strasburg signed a record-setting deal to stay with the Nationals and Gerrit Cole is set to break that record with his Yankees deal) could have a significant ripple effect on the Red Sox.

It appears likely that some of the teams who fell short in the Cole sweepstakes will inquire about David Price's availability. Aside from Strasburg, starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Zack Wheeler have also come off the board.

ESPN's Jeff Passan tweeted that multiple teams have targeted Price, and MLB.com's Mark Feinsand confirmed that as accurate through his sources.

If the Red Sox can deal Price, it would help chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom greatly in his quest to reach ownership's goal of getting the team payroll below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $208 million.

Though Price could be a significant loss to Boston's pitching rotation, the prospect of trading him would certainly be more palatable than dealing five-tool star Mookie Betts, who is entering the final season of his contract.

Current projections have Boston's payroll at roughly $220 million. Price is due to make $32 million annually the next three seasons as he finishes the seven-year, $217-million contract that was a record for a starting pitcher until Strasburg re-upped with the Nats on Monday.

The Red Sox might have to take on a significant chunk of Price's salary to make a trade a reality. One thing that would lessen Boston's financial burden is the inclusion of a young, cost-controllable player (Andrew Benintendi comes to mind) in the package.

One team to keep a close eye on? The Angels. They lost out to the Yankees in the Cole sweepstakes, and their new manager Joe Maddon has a strong relationship with Price from their years together with the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was Maddon who entrusted Price -- in his September callup season of 2008 -- to finish Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday that his team can afford to sign two players this winter with salaries of at least $20 million. Some of this financial flexibility was created when the Angels traded third baseman Zack Cozart to the Giants.

Price's 2019 season was cut short by a left wrist injury that required surgery in September. He made 22 starts, going 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA.

However, before the wrist started bothering Price in August, he was the most consistent starter the Red Sox had last season, going 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA in his first 16 starts.

That seems to be a clear indicator that the injury was the main cause of Price's sharp decline in performance in his final five starts.

In 2018, Price was a big factor in guiding the Red Sox to a World Series championship. He also shed the label that he couldn't perform on the big stage when he closed out the Astros with a gem on three days' rest in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series and went 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA against the Dodgers in the World Series.

The recovery from surgery seems to be a non-issue for Price this winter.

"He's where he usually is at this time of the offseason," said Red Sox general manager Brian O'Halloran. "He typically starts his throwing program in early to mid-December and that's the same this year. He's recovered well from wrist surgery and we expect he'll be ready to go like normal at the beginning of Spring Training."

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has also kept tabs on Price.

"David is doing good," Cora said. "Actually, he played catch two days ago or yesterday and the feeling is different [than before the surgery]. Obviously, he's been dealing with this for a while, and it's been a grind for David to go out there and perform. He feels a little bit looser with the wrist. The feel of the ball is different, and there hasn't been setbacks. As of now, everything is trending the right way. The goal is for him to be ready for the opening series."

The question is whether Price will still be with the Red Sox for that opening series.

One thing is certain: The pitching market is moving fast this winter.

"I think starting pitching is still really important, and most important, quality pitching is critical, however you divide up the innings," said O'Halloran. "As for the market value now, what's going on, I know there are some deals that have been reported unofficially but I don't think have been formalized.

"It does appear that that could be the case, that there could be an increased valuation. I don't know if that's specific to starting pitching. It's still early in the offseason. I don't know if that's the whole market, a segment of the market, a segment of the starting pitching market. It's difficult to say at this point, but certainly starting pitching -- really high quality, elite starting pitching is very, very valuable. It's understandable that those players would get well-compensated."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.