Toronto Blue Jays: A New/Old Starting Pitching Idea

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 17: David Price #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws to first base to force out Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals (not pictured) in the third inning in game two of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 17: David Price #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws to first base to force out Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals (not pictured) in the third inning in game two of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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The Jays need a good, veteran starter (or two!) in 2020.  The Red Sox are looking to reduce payroll. Might a David Price reunion be in the cards?

The Red Sox have recently announced a desire to get under the luxury tax cap in 2020.   Their most expensive player in 2020 will be David Price, who still has three years and $96 million remaining on the seven year, $217 million dollar contract he signed with Boston prior to the 2016 season.

Meanwhile, the Jays have a number of promising young pitchers coming through the minors (six of their top seven prospects are pitchers) but the second and third “waves” are still a few years away from being MLB-ready.  And the projected rotation for 2020 is heavy on young pitchers without much big league experience.  What the Jays badly need is a top-of-rotation, veteran pitcher who can bridge the ~3 years until the Thorntons and Boruckis are more experienced and the Manoahs and Pardinhos are ready.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Can you see where I am going here?

Price was a beast from 2010-2016.  His 1,528 IP led the majors, and his 34.1 WAR was 4th, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  But the injury bug hit in 2017 and (like an unwanted guest) refused to leave, with the result that Price’s 6.3 WAR from 2017-2019 is less than the 6.7 he put up in 2015 alone.

In 2019, Price missed time at the beginning of the season with “elbow discomfort” and at the end with a wrist injury that will require off-season cyst surgery, with the result that he only started 22 games (107 innings).  His 4.28 ERA, while decent, was not spectacular – but his 3.86 SIERA was 22nd best in baseball (starters, 100 IP) – ahead of Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard.  ZiPS projects Price at a 3.95 ERA over 145 IP in 2020.  That might not seem so great, but in HR-happy 2019 a 3.95 ERA would have been 45th best in baseball – so a solid #2 starter.

What would a deal look like?

With the injury risk and Price’s age (he will pitch most of 2020 at 34 years old) it is difficult to argue that he is worth 3/$96m, which would leave Boston with two options.  They could either eat a significant portion of Price’s salary, or add prospects / draft picks / international pool money as a sweetener (similar to what the Mariners did when they traded Robinson Cano to the Mets last off-season).

The Sox farm system is <ahem> “not robust”, which makes the latter option more difficult.  Though the BoSox do have an intriguing young first baseman, Triston Casas, ranked prospect #66 by Baseball America.  Casas’ calling card is his bat and there’s potential for a 60 hit, 70 game power, 80 raw power kind of package.   Casas finished 2019 in high-A ball (after beating up on A-ball as a 19 year old) and has a 2021/2022 ETA.  The Jays’ system is light on power-hitting middle-of-the-order bats, so a Casas might be a good fit.

So say that Price will average 2.0 WAR over the next three years, and that is worth $15m per year.  And say that a #66 prospect is worth $26 million in current value.  So the Jays might take Price and Casas, throw in a low prospect or two for appearances sake, and have Boston retain ~$25m.  Of course, Boston will be hoping to do better than this, looking for a team who still sees Price through 2016-coloured glasses.  But this would be a fair price, IMO.

Next. A bump but successful first season for Charlie Montoyo. dark

The bottom line

This deal would tick a lot of boxes.  It would help Boston with their cap problem at the cost of a player who has had a troubled relationship with the Beantown media and fans.  Price might welcome a move back to Toronto, where he was far more appreciated.  And Price could provide the veteran, #2-level-starter presence that the Jays need, both to compete in 2020 and beyond and to mentor the young arms coming up.  There is risk, of course – but that risk might be what makes a deal possible at a reasonable price, and getting one good starter via the trade route would reduce the pressure on the Jays’ front office to succeed in the free agent market.

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