Red Sox: Commit to Price or Pomeranz?

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 04: David Price is introduced by Red Sox owner John Henry, left, and Chairman Tom Werner during his introductory press conference at Fenway Park on December 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 04: David Price is introduced by Red Sox owner John Henry, left, and Chairman Tom Werner during his introductory press conference at Fenway Park on December 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have a lot of financial decisions to make after the 2018 season. Look no further than the starting rotation.

David Price’s time in Boston has been quite forgettable. Whether it’s the disappointing on-field performances or off-field dramas, Red Sox fans haven’t been pleased with Price.

However, Price, 32, can win a lot of fans back this year should he stay healthy. He’ll have a chance to produce an excellent season while showing leadership qualities, something all Red Sox fans can appreciate.

Price can opt out of his seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox after this season. But even if Price turns in a Cy Young season, he’s unlikely to earn as much money over the next few years of his career. Price is set to earn $30 million this season — a number that will continue to rise until 2023. It’s highly unlikely that a team will pay a 33 year old more than $30 million a season.

In fact, based off injury and performance decline in a major market, Price may lose money in free agency. In his first season in Boston, he went 17-9 with a 3.99 earned run average in 230 innings pitched. He also struck out 228 batters. While most stats he posted in 2016 were positive, allowing 30 home runs and a 3.99 ERA isn’t what Boston paid $217 million for.

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Last season, Price had better numbers but they were skewed by such a small sample size due to his injury-riddled season. Price went 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA in about 75 innings, often as a reliever. Despite the injuries, Price did show signs of progress toward regaining form.

In September of last season, Price was brought in as a reliever and threw 15 fastballs and maxed out at 97.9 mph in Boston’s 10-7 win over the Blue Jays. He threw 14 fastballs harder than 95 mph and eight fastballs faster than 96 mph, according to Christopher Smith of the Boston Herald. While velocity isn’t everything to an average pitcher, fastballs are a big part of Price’s game. When he’s hurling flame throwers, he’s at his best.

While a successful 2018 season for Price is crucial for the team and the fans, it may also dictate his future in Boston. Should he pitch at an All-Star level while doing so with a smile on his face, the fans, media and Red Sox front office will support him. This potential turnaround could convince Price to stay in Boston for his whole contract.

Or he could still opt out for more money.

But Price isn’t the only starting pitcher with the option to hit the open market.

Drew Pomeranz is also set to hit free agency. The Red Sox will have another tough decision to make on him. Pomeranz, 29, had his best season as a member of the Red Sox, going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA in about 174 innings pitched — the most in any season of his career.

If the tall lefty were to replicate these numbers, would the Red Sox re-sign Pomeranz when Price is already under a huge contract and Chris Sale is headed that way?

Additionally, Craig Kimbrel — one of the best closers in baseball — is also hitting the market after this season, and former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello will be making over $21 million until 2020.

It seems far-fetched that Boston management would be willing to commit such a large portion of the team’s money to three left-handed starting pitchers who are all around the same age, when other players on the team will command large portions of money. Many of Boston’s younger players are headed for big paydays in the near future, too.

Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. all have expiring contracts coming in the next few years. Eventually, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers will come knocking for their paydays, should they pan out the way the Red Sox envision.

Additionally, we mustn’t forget to factor in J.D. Martinez‘s large contract for at least two seasons, possibly five.

Ultimately the Red Sox don’t have the money to pay everyone. They’ll plan to keep most but will certainly lose one or two players to free agency. Paying Chris Sale, David Price and Drew Pomeranz seems unrealistic. Assuming Sale figures out how to last a full season and pitch effectively in the post season, the Red Sox must brace for a gigantic contract.

Again, even if Pomeranz replicates — or improves — his numbers from last year, it doesn’t warrant a third large commitment to another starting pitcher who will turn 30. Additionally, if Price turns in a fantastic 2018 campaign and ops out, the Red Sox can’t reward him with another huge payday based off one season.

General manager Dave Dombrowski will have decisions galore the next few years. He went out and hand-picked David Price with one of the largest contracts in history. He traded away Anderson Espinoza for Drew Pomeranz. Now, he’s faced with a decision on who to build around the Red Sox’ future. Continuing to pay Price or re-signing him seemingly ends any chance of re-signing Pomeranz. But if both end up on the market who will Dombrowski pay?

Price has another gear that has been reached in the past but never in a Red Sox uniform; only through flashes during the season. Pomeranz continues to improve each year, but seems to have an inning limit and rarely sees beyond six innings. However, the market for Pomeranz should be high considering pitching is a premium.

Next: Red Sox: Mike Lowell talks about Rafael Devers’ third base defense

The ball is in your court, Dombrowski. Whatever pitcher you chose, he better earn every cent of it on the mound. Price sure hasn’t yet.