Boston Red Sox’ David Price and the failure club


The Boston Red Sox have inked David Price to a long term deal and the historic success for the life of such a contract is rare. How will Price do?

The Boston Red Sox management created the situation that simply resulted in paying an enormous amount for pitcher David Price. The move was entirely unnecessary and was the end result of the complete blundering of the Jon Lester contract situation. But that pony has left the barn and a new ringmaster is in town with carte blanche to pump out the bilge on the listing cruise ship Red Sox.

Rarely does management fire themselves, so what was needed was someone to sterilize Yawkey Way and hence the arrival of the new wizard of Baseball Operations – Dave Dombrowski.

Dombrowski has promised an ace and he has delivered. A big standing “O” for Dave! And, the bullpen it seems has also been shored up and that is to be an ongoing process – expect more. Dombrowski is still faced with failures of the previous regime – Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez – so there may be considerably more effort on hand. Dombrowski is proceeding at light speed in cleaning up an inherited mess.

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So a hardy welcome to the failure club, Mr. Price – and it is not the team, but fellow left-handers who have each received progressively escalating contracts that represented new and astounding benchmarks for baseball largesse.

Long term the Price signing will be a monetary failure or, at least, a limited one if one expects consistent exceptional yearly performances. Historically the chances are that seven years of ace quality pitching are a mere illusion and Price will simply join an extensive list ranging from dismal failures to those that have managed to give some quality seasons before burning out. Three left-handers come into my foggy memory and all had superb pitching credentials.

The Colorado Rockies signed Mike Hampton for an eight-year and a $121 Million contract to lead them into a World Series. The contract was reportedly the largest of any sport and not just baseball. So just how did that work out?

The good news is that Hampton won three Silver Slugger Awards and a Gold Gove during those eight contract years. The bad news is he was hired to win games and that had minimal results. Toss in a back-to-back Tommy John surgeries and after that only ten more wins in three seasons. Hampton rode into the magnificent millions thanks to a 22 win season in Houston and a 15 win follow-up with the Mets and then collapsed into a pitching black hole.

Seven years and $126 Million brought Barry Zito to the Giants and a 63-80 record with a 4.62 ERA. Zito was a former Cy Young Award winner and a baseball iron man who led the American League in starts on four occasions. The only thing he led the Giants in was losses (17) in 2008 that topped the National League. . Zito was essentially viewed as a number four or five starter.

What will $69 Million get you on the pitching market? Spread over three years is it worth a 23-27 record? Would you pay that pitcher another $50 Million over the next two years? Welcome to the New York Yankees where fat contracts go to die and C.C. Sabathia has a very fat contract.

Sabathia was actually a steal the first few seasons in New York by leading the American League in wins his first two seasons with the Yankees. Toss in a World Series Championship and the contract had some real positives. Two good, but not spectacular seasons followed and then came the collapse. Age, wear and tear and injuries have made this a deal that has a clearly demonstrated positive and an equally demonstrated flop side. Split down the middle.

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I expect Price to follow the Sabathia route with an immediate and positive impact and (hopefully) for three to four years. I don’t expect this to be a string of phenomenal seasons for the entire contract and I do not expect consistent 30+ starts. Historically that is rare from any star free agent pitcher – a very short list. The long-term outlook is a slide into mid to late contract mediocrity.

Price has had a few minor health issues surface and there will certainly be more since that is the nature of the arm – a tricky little appendage that seems to develop a real shutdown mode as a pitcher ages. If Price falls into the Hampton niche the Red Sox may be making some serious insurance requests down the baseball path. If Price models his Boston career after Zito the ace hunt will have failed. If it follows Sabathia and a WS is delivered with Price leading the charge – then justification exists based on how Price contributes.

Next: Boston Red Sox unlikely to trade Hanley Ramirez

In the meanwhile, the failure club will have to wait for another inductee and, hopefully, the wait will be an extended one.