Why Red Sox’ David Price should opt-out after 2018

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: David Price
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: David Price /

David Price had an excellent track record before signing with the Red Sox in 2015. But, with two seasons under his belt, what could a solid 2018 campaign mean for him and Boston?

Baseball is a complex sport. Even more complex than the sport itself is its players.

Their love for this game is beyond what most of us can imagine. This game gives them life, and in turn, they get to perform on the biggest stage in the world seemingly night-in and night-out.

Baseball is not easy. The physical, mental and emotional demands of this sport can sometimes lead an athlete to forget why he started playing. Once that love is lost, you may find a player chasing money rather than rings.

The silver lining in this is once that love is lost, it can be rediscovered. Greed over passion never is received well, especially for a championship-or-bust fan base such as Boston’s.

You’ll be far-fetched to find a player with more passion for the game that’s given him so much than the Red Sox’ David Price. Price was drafted first overall in 2007. After just over a year in the minors, Price was pitching for Tampa Bay in the playoffs.

Price was itching to get out of the Minor Leagues, but who wouldn’t be? Long bus rides, low wages (with the exception of signing bonuses-Price received $5.6 million) hardly give players a desire to stay. But they do. They stay and they stay for the love of the game, to leave their mark on its history.

With such huge adjustments to make, most of us can’t fully understand the mental hurdles baseball players face.

From a local crowd of 5,000 and a paycheck that sometimes won’t be equivalent to minimum wage in some states, to a roaring crowd of 35,000 plus and a paycheck most of us can only dream of, these players have quite the adjustment to make.

To say that Price has lost his love for baseball is incorrect. Truth be told, David Price is one of the hardest workers in the game. And to question his passion for his job is flat-out wrong. Passion is derived from hard work and greeted with reward more times than not.

For Price, his reward came in the off-season of 2015 when he inked a 7-year $217 million deal with the Red Sox. Carrying an AAV of over $30 million, it’s only right that the fan base felt Price had something to prove.

Prove your worth in this city and you’re treated like a God. Disprove your worth and you’re yesterday’s news, nothing more than another headline about another bad contract.

Price has had his issues with the media, fans and current NESN analyst and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Nik DeCosta-Kilpa of Boston.com does a fine job of capturing Price’s scuffs with the media thus far.

To proclaim Price to have an issue with the fans here would be yet another stereotype that would prove incorrect. He hasn’t bad-mouthed the fans or had any altercations of that sort. He saw the passion that emanated from the stands when he was pitching against Boston.

Was David Price wrong to choose Boston?

Price had offers that were similar to Boston’s, his reason for choosing this as his final destination came down to two things. Money and winning. His current contract is one of the game’s highest deals, and the direction Boston was headed with its young core of star players made it tough for Price to say no.

Any athlete who’s played in a Boston media market will tell you the same thing. It isn’t easy to play here. That is also something Price knew before signing here. But, perhaps he underestimated how difficult it really is.

Carl Crawford had difficulty here, the same goes for Pablo Sandoval and I wouldn’t exactly say Hanley Ramirez has excelled, either. All three and Price have signed long-term deals and haven’t performed up to par.

There appears to be a little fire under all of that smoke and a pattern like that can’t be ignored. But, Price hasn’t performed poorly by any stretch of the word.

In his first two seasons here, he’s accumulated a 3.84 ERA, 117 ERA+, 9.0 K/9 and a 4.11 K/BB ratio. For the most part, those numbers are right in line with his career averages while his K/9 and K/BB ratios exceed his career averages.

With an injury-shortened 2017 along with the gripes with the media, Price needs to do one thing in 2018 to win back the fans. Win back might not be the appropriate phrase as that implies that he had the hearts of fans from the get-go, which isn’t the case.

Boston wasn’t that accepting of Price for his comments after David Ortiz hit two home runs off of him in Game 2 the 2013 ALDS. The following season, there was an altercation between the two after Price had hit Ortiz and teammate Mike Carp in the same game.

Following that altercation, words were exchanged and Price notably said that “Nobody’s bigger than the game of baseball”, due to Ortiz’ emotional way of play. Ortiz then declared “war” on Price and is quoted as saying “Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves.”

Two offseasons later, the altercation seemed to be forgotten about as the two made amends once they decided to work for a common goal. The power of the shared goal to win the World Series can unite even the worst of enemies.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox have fallen short of World Series titles in both seasons Price has pitched. And Price isn’t fully to blame for those losses by any means.

Price for what it’s worth has played for four Major League teams including the Red Sox, Rays, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays. Everywhere he’s gone, he has been raved about by teammates. He is known around the league as one of the best teammates the game has to offer, and clubhouse chemistry is something every successful team needs.

But, is Price in over his head with all of this? The contract, the extreme demand for high-quality performance, in a painfully analytical media market? He is the only one to know that answer.

Price might not be the perennial Cy-Young candidate he once was, but he is still a very effective pitcher, nonetheless, in addition to all of the knowledge he is able to share with the younger pitchers on the staff and throughout the organization.

2018 will be a big season for Price, and the Red Sox. Price will be looking to come back from an injury-shortened 2017 and the Red Sox will be looking to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

2018 might be the be-all, tell-all season for David Price as well as the end of his tenure in a Red Sox uniform. A good season could mean he opts out, gets away from the market here in Boston, and seeks other opportunities on the open market. A bad season occurs and Price surely will elect to stay in the city for four more seasons, collecting $30 million plus a year.

The best scenario for Boston is a good year from Price. A good year from him with fellow left-hander Chris Sale at the helm of the staff would ensure a dynamic 1-2 duo at the front of the rotation that would help lead the team to the playoffs for a third straight season.

Following the playoffs, Price could elect to opt-out, thus freeing up payroll for the Red Sox to use in extension talks with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts or another player as well as breaking them free from a payroll-consuming contract.

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It will be interesting to see how Price fares this season with the media and on the field. We will be watching, waiting and wondering each time he takes the mound.