The Dodgers aren’t bringing these former Red Sox pitchers with them to the postseason
Craig Kimbrel and David Price, two key contributors during Boston’s 2018 postseason run, which culminated in a World Series victory over the Dodgers, didn’t make the cut.
Kimbrel spent three seasons with the Red Sox after he was acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016. One of the game’s most dominant closers at the time, Kimbrel had a solid run in Boston, notching 108 saves while producing a 2.44 ERA and 14.9 K/9.
While he collected six saves during the 2018 postseason, including Game 2 of the World Series against the Dodgers, Kimbrel was seen as a liability after some concerning regular-season numbers and then fell out of favor during Boston’s playoff run. He allowed seven earned runs in 10 2/3 innings during that postseason and had to be bailed out several times, including by Andrew Benintendi, who made a game-saving catch to keep the Astros at bay during the ALCS. Alex Cora famously let Chris Sale record the final three outs in the decisive Game 5 to clinch the World Series. It wasn’t actually a save situation, but it was notable that the ace got the ball instead of the closer for a historic moment.
That offseason, the Sox let Kimbrel walk in free agency after he declined the Qualifying Offer and clearly, dodged a bullet when they decided not to re-sign him. He went into the offseason with somewhat unreasonable demands and it wasn’t until early June that he finally signed a lucrative three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. It quickly proved to be a serious overpay; Kimbrel owned a 6.00 ERA over 36 innings during his first two years in Chicago. He redeemed himself with an excellent first half in 2021, producing a 0.49 ERA in 39 appearances, restoring enough value for the Cubs to trade him across town to the White Sox at the deadline. Kimbrel quickly fell apart after the trade, posting a 5.09 ERA in 24 games with the White Sox, who used him as a setup man, rather than his natural closer role.
After Kenley Jansen bolted for Atlanta in free agency, the Dodgers traded outfielder AJ Pollack to Chicago for Kimbrel last April. The expectation was that Kimbrel would take over the ninth inning in Los Angeles but the Dodgers ended up using a committee approach to fill the role.
Kimbrel converted 22 of 27 save opportunities while posting a 3.75 ERA. He’s far from the elite closer that he was in his heyday and his career-low 10.8 K/9 is another red flag signaling his decline. However, Kimbrel had a solid enough year that it’s mildly surprising that he was left off the NLDS roster. He didn’t allow an earned run in any of his final six regular-season appearances so it’s not as if he was entering the playoffs in poor form.
Price’s exclusion is a bit easier to justify since he missed most of September with a wrist injury but he appeared healthy in two scoreless innings to wrap up the season.
The former Cy Young winner had a rocky tenure with the Red Sox after signing a seven-year, $217 million deal prior to the 2016 season, the richest pitching contract in history at the time. Price didn’t live up to his reputation during his four years in Boston and his legacy was stained by controversies stemming from his combative relationship with the media.
But even his harshest critics can’t deny that Price was an essential part of the 2018 title team. Price was brilliant on the World Series stage, going 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in three appearances against the Dodgers, including two starts. He fired seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5 to earn the win that clinched the championship.
The Red Sox will always be grateful for Price’s contributions to that championship but it’s fair to say that he didn’t live up to his contract for most of his tenure in Boston. His payroll-clogging salary forced the Red Sox to trade him to Los Angeles in a salary dump in which they only managed to shed only half his remaining salary despite packaging him with superstar Mookie Betts.
Price didn’t pitch during the COVID-shortened 2020 season but the Dodgers certainly didn’t miss him on their way to winning a championship. They acquired Price as part of the… err, *price* of adding Betts. He’s not a pitcher the Dodgers were necessarily counting on.
The 37-year-old’s contract will mercifully fall off the books of both teams after this season, at which point Price is expected to retire. With the Dodgers leaving him off their NLDS roster, it’s possible we’ve already seen the last of Price on a major league mound.
He’s certainly not the pitcher he once was and wouldn’t factor into the Dodgers playoff rotation but Price can still be a useful asset out of the bullpen. The lefty posted a 2.45 ERA in 40 1/3 innings this year. He also showed that he could thrive in a relief role during his Boston tenure, but that amount of work did not align with his salary.
If the Dodgers advance further in the postseason and find themselves in need of bullpen depth, it’s possible that they could turn to Kimbrel or Price. It’s clear that the Dodgers don’t value them as much as their other options, though. That’s both a testament to the depth of their roster and a sign of how far these aging pitchers have fallen since leaving Boston.