The other factor
Price didn’t mention it in this interview but there’s one more reason why he didn’t opt-out. In this current free agent climate, there’s no guarantee that he’d earn more than the $127 million he has coming to him from the Red Sox. It’s not unreasonable to wonder if he would have made less.
He alluded to this reason earlier this spring when asked if his decision to stay was difficult. “Have you seen this free agent market?” Clearly, Price wanted had no desire to take that gamble.
The most any starting pitcher has made this winter is Patrick Corbin‘s 6-year, $140 million deal. The 29-year old is four years younger than Price and coming off a 4.6 WAR season that edges out the value Price provided (4.4 WAR).
J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton, a pair of pitchers who produced above 3.0 WAR last season but are on the wrong side of 30, each settled for 2-year deals for half the amount per year that Price earns. Former Cy Young-winner Dallas Keuchel is still looking for a job. So is Kimbrel, the top relief pitcher on the market.
Manny Machado proved that elite talent will still be rewarded and plenty of teams have been shopping in the bargain bin. It’s the players in the middle that are getting squeezed, finding it hard to find a new home or settling for less than they expected. That’s the territory Price may have found himself in if he dared to test the market.
Price had several reasons drawing him back to Boston. The three he mentioned certainly make sense and were a factor in his decision not to opt-out. Yet you have to believe that the uncertainty of the current free agent market would have been reason enough on its own to lock in the four-year guarantee he’ll earn by not opting out.