Blue Jays & David Price: How it looks two years later


The Blue Jays acquired David Price for the stretch run in 2015, and let him go in free agency that fall. How do those decisions look two years later?

It was an exciting time to be a Blue Jays’ fan when Alex Anthopoulos was wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline in 2015. First he brought in Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Colorado Rockies, and then pulled another blockbuster, bringing in the ace the Blue Jays needed in David Price. The left-hander was the catalyst the Jays needed to go on an incredible run, and won the AL East with as much momentum as they’ve ever had in the franchise.

The Blue Jays were knocked out of the ALCS by the Kansas City Royals that year, but least the playoff drought was over and the fans were coming back to the Rogers Centre in droves. A fire had been lit under the baseball fan base in Toronto, and despite the fact that they spent all but one day in last place in the AL East this year, the fans continued to come out to the ballpark in 2017.

Of course, the Price story was story-lived, as he ended up being a free agent that offseason, and eventually signed a seven year, 217 million dollar deal with the division rival Red Sox. It was a move that stung the Blue Jays’ fan base, but devoting that kind of money to one player is not something the Blue Jays have historically done. At the time of the signing, Price was 30 years old, and had been an elite pitcher since his early 20’s, something that also scares off many teams in free agency.

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As disappointed as I was to see him walk, when I saw the contract figures I had to admit the Blue Jays made the right decision. Baseball’s salaries have gotten out of hand over the last few years, but paying one pitcher over 30 million per season makes it very difficult to manage the rest of your payroll. When you’re potentially paying that same pitcher 32 million when he’s 36-37 years old, that’s setting yourself up for future disaster.

We see it now in Toronto, as many fans gripe about the contracts of Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista‘s 18 million from this past season, and even the money that Russell Martin is bringing in these days draws the ire of a select group of fans. The reality is, when you sign a veteran to a free agent contract, you’re probably going to be overpaying at the end of the deal. The problem with one like Price’s is that you could be grossly overpaying for a long time if things go the wrong way.

Case in point was the 2017 season for the likeable former Blue Jay, who made just 11 starts at 16 appearances, throwing just 74.2 innings. He battled elbow issues on and off throughout the year, but managed to avoid having the Tommy John surgery that many feared he would ultimately end up with. As the season neared it’s conclusion, he wasn’t able to get his arm strength where it needed to be to start, so he was used out of the bullpen in the season’s final weeks, and into the playoffs. While he was effective in the role, it’s pretty tough to pay a guy 30 million to be a relief pitcher.

He’ll be back in the rotation to start 2018, but it remains to be seen how long his arm will hold up, and if he’ll ultimately end up going under the knife before his contract is up. He’s now 32, and has 5 years and 157 million remaining on his deal. There is a good chance he provides solid value over the next few years (if he can stay healthy), but the Red Sox are going to be overpaying him at some point in this contract, no matter how well his career arc changes as he ages.

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So as I reflect back on this time two years ago and think about how badly I wanted the Blue Jays to re-sign him, I’m glad that we don’t always get what we wish for. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the pitcher very much and can’t help but cheer for him when he’s on the mound, but if you asked me if I’d be willing to hang him a five year, 157 million dollar deal right now, I’d run in the opposite direction.