The Red Sox are prohibitive favorites, at least in the eyes of the media and a few baseball executives, to land free agent David Price for two reasons: president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s relationship with the lefthander, whom he acquired and then dealt over the last two trade deadlines, and Boston’s desperate need for an ace after two consecutive last-place finishes and three in the last four years.
Dombrowski is keeping talks with free agents close to the vest, but his counterparts are convinced Dombrowski is acting aggressively. We’ll likely hear soon of the courting process, with Dombrowski and Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Mike Gordon visiting Price. When asked about a possible offer to Price, Dombrowski texted, “No, I would not disclose that.”
The bidding should reach the seven-year, $210 million range and likely include the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers. But other teams on the periphery could become engaged, such as the Nationals, Angels, Rangers, and Astros.
The Yankees traditionally would be in on something like this, but they seem to be out of the business of long-term deals for the time being.
The notion that Price wouldn’t come to Boston because of a rift with David Ortiz is overblown, according to a Red Sox source.
“That’s resolved with one phone call,” said the source. “They have tremendous respect for each other on the field.”
Red Sox fans on Twitter haven’t always been kind to Price, but Price should see that as the passion fans have for their players.
The question nobody but Price can answer is, would he want to pitch for the Red Sox when he could feel more comfortable with the Cubs or Cardinals? Price hails from Murfreesboro, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. The Winter Meetings begin Dec. 6 in Nashville, so you can bet Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, will parade his client around the massive Opryland Hotel.
The Nationals, who have no plans to pursue their free agent pitchers, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, will have some payroll relief they could gear toward Price.
Ownership could keep Price in Toronto if it wanted, a Blue Jays player source said. Price loves playing for the Jays, according to the player. But that may not be realistic. While ownership opened its wallet to obtain Troy Tulowitzki and Price at the trading deadline, there’s no guarantee it will do the same to retain Price, or try to re-up Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion when they hit free agency next offseason.
This past season, the Jays provided the most excitement for their fans since 1993. While they didn’t get to the World Series, you could tell by the reaction of the fans that it was a special team. New team president Mark Shapiro could have different ideas on how to keep the Jays relevant and thriving, but if those plans don’t include Price, Bautista, and Encarnacion, it’s not going to fly in Toronto, just as the departure of Canadian-born general manager Alex Anthopoulos made fans very angry.
The Cardinals are closer to Price’s home, and there’s a need there with Lance Lynn needing Tommy John surgery, though Adam Wainwright will be back for a full season. The Cardinals aren’t usually ones to set the market, but in this case they may have to. They also have issues on offense and have been linked to free agent first baseman Chris Davis. We’ll see whom the Cardinals prioritize, because it doesn’t appear they’ll get both.
A link to the Cubs is obvious. Price played for Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. Chicago is not far from Price’s home, the Cubs are an up-and-coming team, and Price could help form a nice rotation with Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. After a long stint with the Rays, Price has enjoyed higher-profile stops in Detroit and Toronto, where fans truly care about baseball.
Most executives believe Price, 30, will get blown away by the Red Sox. In fact, an executive told Peter Gammons of MLB Network that the Red Sox could exceed the next-highest offer by “$30 million-$40 million.” Not sure Dombrowski would do that, but the possibility of the Red Sox beating the rest of the field could be real after they fell short in the Lester bidding last offseason.
The signing of Price again would be a shift in philosophy by Red Sox ownership, which has been against long-term contracts for pitchers 30 and over. There are scouts who believe Zack Greinke is a better gamble because of his delivery, mechanics, and smarts. After experiencing anxiety early in his career in Kansas City, Greinke pitched in a huge market in Los Angeles and was lights out.
Another team to watch closely is the Giants. They were runners-up for Lester and James Shields last offseason, so they are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Price and Greinke. While San Francisco is a beautiful city, has an excellent pitchers’ ballpark, and the Giants have won three World Series in the last six years, they’re not for everyone. After spending a couple of months in the Bay Area pitching for Oakland, Lester ruled the Giants out first among his three finalists last offseason.
Price owns a career record of 104-56 with a 3.09 ERA. He was 18-5 this past season, 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA with Toronto in 11 starts. But he has struggled in the postseason, going 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA.
|162 game averages||16||9||3.09||34||2||227||1.132|
Roberts a good choice by Dodgers
Dave Roberts could have been just another guy who had a good playing career and then disappeared.
But life had other plans. Roberts helped the Red Sox beat the Yankees with a stolen base for the ages in 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox ultimately won the World Series, ending an 86-year drought.
Boston was also the place where Roberts realized how fragile life can be. He put his faith in the hands of the Dana-Farber cancer doctors and nurses, and he came away with his life. It was his biggest steal.
This past week, another dream came true for Roberts. He was named manager of the Dodgers. Roberts has never managed and he’s not crazy about analytics. He will use the new data, like every manager in this day and age. But a great thing about Roberts is that he will call on his life skills to do his best work.
The data aren’t going to get Yasiel Puig to be a great player, but the bet here is that Roberts’s ability to engage him will be a huge factor. You have to believe that was one of the reasons team president Andrew Friedman chose Roberts, to help turn Puig into a superstar.
When Friedman met with Roberts, he probably reacted the way we all do, thinking this guy is special. That he was a UCLA Bruin and played for the Dodgers certainly helped. He also was a coach with the Padres, so he has knowledge of the National League West.
When it came time to hire a manager in San Diego, Roberts was out of the mix. GM A.J. Preller didn’t even consider Roberts, which was a tremendous disappointment to him. So, Roberts went out and got the Dodgers job, while the Padres hired relative unknown Andy Green.
Bravo to Friedman for picking Roberts. He had whittled it down to Roberts and Gabe Kapler, another terrific talent. Kapler, the Dodgers’ farm director, is more analytical, his one year managing the Red Sox’ Greenville Drive was a huge success, and he is definitely on the Sox’ radar as a future manager. There’s no doubt Kapler will be a big league manager or GM in the not-too-distant future.
Kapler is also a former teammate of Roberts in Boston, and he had nice things to say about him in his concession speech.
Apropos of nothing
1. Barry Bonds has drawn great reviews from the Giants for the way he teaches hitting, as well as from Alex Rodriguez, who worked with Bonds last winter. How long will it be before the controversial slugger is hired as a hitting coach, and not necessarily with the Giants? You wonder if a team like the Marlins (Frank Menechino is currently their hitting coach) haven’t at least thought about it.
2. We’ve complimented him before, but here we go again. The football field at Fenway for the Boston College-Notre Dame game was aesthetically spectacular. Well done, Dave Mellor.
3. Marlins ownership had no idea how popular TV color analyst Tommy Hutton was after 19 years in the Miami market when they let him go last week. And he was let go so late it’ll be difficult for him to hook on elsewhere.
4. Larry Lucchino would hit a home run if he would refurbish McCoy Stadium. It is the minor league version of Fenway Park in the eyes of Pawtucket fans. Lucchino was smart enough to redo Fenway after a bid for a new ballpark in Boston failed. If he takes the same path, Lucchino’s tenure in Rhode Island will turn out fine.
5. One thing that has to change with negotiations this winter for a new collective bargaining agreement is the formula for calculating the luxury tax. Big-market teams are getting the short end of the stick, while mid to small markets reap the benefits. The other relevant topic, brought up by agent Scott Boras two weeks ago, is teams being rewarded for tanking it. Boras is right: a team obviously trying to lose should not be allowed two consecutive years of top 1-3 picks.
6. Some bigwigs in the New York business community wonder whether Hal Steinbrenner would entertain a sale of the Yankees. “There would be no shortage of potential buyers,” said one prominent New York multimillionaire. “If Donald Trump doesn’t become president, there’s one major player for the Yankees.”
7. Baseball should encourage Mark Cuban to become an owner. He’s a good NBA owner with a passion for his Dallas Mavericks, and he always does right financially by his team. He’s an owner who really wants to win.
Updates on nine
1. Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense. There are huge hurdles to cross, however. One is money. With a little more than $68 million remaining on Ramirez’s deal, the Red Sox would need to eat at least half. The other hurdle is position. All three teams would have use for him as a DH. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, after evaluating the Sox organization, knows Ramirez’s weaknesses. Dan Duquette of the Orioles signed Ramirez originally with the Red Sox and has always loved his bat. Duquette also faces the possibility of losing Chris Davis. The Angels could use another bat. There is also a question as to whether Ramirez could play third base. If he lost the 20 pounds the Sox want him to, maybe.
2. Chris Davis, 1B-OF, free agent — Whether real offers have been made is unclear, but we do know the Orioles are engaged and have an idea of what it would take to re-sign their slugger. There are a few teams interested and there should be some face-to-face meetings soon. The Red Sox have at least discussed Davis internally, though any advancement would be tied into being able to deal Ramirez and the amount of resources expended on the ace pitcher. With David Ortiz one year away from retirement, Dombrowski must soon consider a slugger to fill that void, or wait for Jose Bautista’s free agency.
3. Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals — One of the most sought-after pitchers of the offseason has been the 22-year-old Ross. For the moment, GM Mike Rizzo is resisting all offers. The Nationals stand to lose Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister in free agency, and would fit Ross into the rotation. But they have other needs and Ross would bring a huge return.
4. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, free agent — The righthander is drawing healthy interest from the Dodgers, who could pick off one or two free agent pitchers. The Dodgers may lose Zack Greinke, so Zimmermann would be a decent replacement as a No. 2. But there could be another free agent on their minds, as well as a mid-to-end rotation guy.
5. Juan Nieves, pitching coach — Nieves, formerly with the Red Sox, is strongly being considered by the Marlins. Nieves was replaced in Boston by Carl Willis after the Sox staff got off to a rocky start. Nieves oversaw Boston’s 2013 championship staff but quickly fell out of favor with team brass in 2015.
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B-2B, Athletics — With Jed Lowrie back in Oakland, the A’s could entertain offers for Lawrie, the principal player in the Josh Donaldson deal with Toronto last winter. Lawrie is only 25 and managed to stay healthy and play in a career-high 149 games in 2015. He also played 42 games at second base. He hit .260 overall with 16 homers, 60 RBIs, and a .702 OPS.
7. Ben Zobrist, INF-OF, free agent — There’s so much interest in the 34-year-old that it appears he may get a four-year deal. Zobrist was earmarked for a three-year deal tops given his age, but the competition for him will likely put him into four-year territory.
8. Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates — All of baseball knows Walker, 30, is available in trade as he approaches his final year of arbitration and is to the point in his career where his salary may trump his production. Walker made $8 million in 2015 and stands to increase that by a healthy margin. He has some power, which should appeal to a few teams. It doesn’t appear the Pirates will have trouble dealing him.
9. Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, Cubs — Venture to guess what Epstein’s next contract will bring as he enters the final year of a five-year, $18.5 million deal? With Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reportedly making more than $7 million per season, Epstein may equal or top that after a successful overhaul of the team.
From the Bill Chuck files — “John Lackey joined Hiroki Kuroda, Roger Clemens, Kevin Brown, and Randy Johnson (twice) as the only pitchers 36 and over since 1993 to pitch at least 200 innings and allow fewer than 70 earned runs. Lackey threw 218 innings and gave up 67 earned runs.” . . . Happy birthday, Steve Rodriguez (45), Joe Price (59), Mike Easler (65), Dick McAuliffe (76), and George Thomas (78).
Back for seconds
Mike Trout, the 2014 AL MVP, was second in the voting this season, the third time in four major league seasons the Angels outfielder was runner-up. He’s the third player to take runner-up honors three times since baseball started awarding winners in each league in 1930, leaving the 24-year-old just one behind the only three four-time runners-up — Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Albert Pujols. Pretty good company.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.