Price rises to the Fenway Park challenge
Ace lefty familiar with AL East, agrees to record contract with Red Sox
There are easier ways to earn a living than being a left-handed pitcher in Fenway Park. One of those ways would be being a left-handed pitcher in, for instance, the National League West. But this is not the path that David Price has chosen.
Price and the Boston Red Sox have agreed upon a record contract for a pitcher, seven years and $217 million as first reported by The Boston Globe. Clayton Kershaw previously had the largest pitching deal: $215 million over seven years with the Dodgers.
There was obviously widespread interest in Price, and much of it was generated by teams with every bit as much ability to pay as the Red Sox. If we assume that Boston's offer was the highest, we can also assume that other offers would have been extremely lucrative, as well. Nobody figured to obtain Price at a discounted rate.
Here is Price, at the peak of his career and at the peak of his earning power. Where does he want to spend the remainder of his most productive seasons?
Some people in Price's situation would have opted for the NL. Life is less strenuous there for a starting pitcher, if for no other reason than the difference between facing a pitcher instead of a designated hitter.
But there are other reasons. There are three spacious parks in the NL West, and two of them -- in Los Angeles and San Francisco -- would have been home to clubs that are in the market for a front-line starter.
The NL East is not loaded with teams that present scary lineups. The NL Central had the three teams with the best records in baseball in 2015. Two of them -- the Cubs and the Cardinals -- would have been logical candidates to pursue Price. The Cubs are a team on the rise, and Price could have been reunited with his manager at Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon. The Cards are proven winners, and their park is not a hitter's paradise.
But Price chose the Red Sox, who play their home games in a park where a healthy fly ball to left gets you all four bases. Beyond that, the American League East also has hitter-friendly parks in New York, Baltimore and Toronto.
So this decision on Price's part tells us not merely that he is about to become extraordinarily wealthy. It tells us that he is up to a challenge, and is, in fact, up for a challenge.
And Price has spent the vast majority of his professional life in the AL East. That is why, for the purposes of this discussion, Price's record with the Blue Jays this season (9-1 with a 2.30 ERA) is more central than his postseason record (2-7, 5.12 ERA).
Those postseason numbers didn't frighten Boston away, did they? Here is one good reason why:
In 11 career starts at Fenway Park, Price is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA and a WHIP of 0.95. There is a word for a left-hander pitching that well at Fenway. I believe that word is: "Wow."
There will be arguments about whether the Red Sox have overpaid to get Price with this seven-year deal carrying an average annual value of $31 million. This isn't about that. Boston has not fared well with a rotation whose members had some individual merit, but were not aces.
The Red Sox had not fully compensated for trading away Jon Lester in 2014. They saw an opportunity here to get a legitimate ace, a proven winner, a man with an AL Cy Young Award on his resume. They had to pay dearly to get him.
But you knew Price was going to do very well for himself, with the demand for rotation aces vastly exceeding the supply. The other half of it is that Price made a choice here that also represented a more challenging situation than most, probably a much more challenging situation than most.
Red Sox Nation, with three World Series championships in the new millennium, is no longer a patient audience. The pressure will be on Price to make a huge difference, to live up to the contract, to the expectations, which will include spreading joy and fulfillment through all of New England, at the very least.
Price has demonstrated that he can lead the league in ability and determination. And he has demonstrated that he can pitch very well at Fenway Park. Now Price will be asked to excel for the Red Sox on an extremely regular basis. His record, his confidence, his choice all say that he can succeed in Boston.