FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are surely plenty of Red Sox fans pleased with the news that David Price was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday night, as much it may have pained them that Mookie Betts was the centerpiece of the deal.
It’s hard to blame them. Price’s public persona during his four seasons with the Sox ranged from indifferent to grouchy, with only occasional smiles.
The lefthander even picked a feud with team broadcaster Dennis Eckersley that lasted more than two years.
But Price was respected and liked by teammates, somebody former manager Alex Cora counted on to help create a good environment in the clubhouse.
Price looked after rookies, gave advice and encouragement freely, and cared about winning. Being a good teammate was something he took seriously.
That ended at the clubhouse doors. Price didn’t care what fans, media, or anybody else outside his circle thought. If anything, the hate was competitive fuel for him.
I’ve never covered a player with a wider gap between how he was regarded inside the clubhouse compared with outside.
But any fan happy that he’s gone should reconsider.
Price never fully embraced Boston, but the Red Sox won the American League East in three of the four seasons he was here and won the World Series in 2018.
Strong rotations are an absolute necessity to win championships, and the Sox just traded their No. 2 starter a week before pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training.
It’s a move that will help give the Red Sox greater financial flexibility down the road. But for now, it’s just a gaping hole in the roster.
Price was 46-24 with a 3.84 earned run average during his time with the Sox, not ideal considering he was signed to a seven-year, $217 million contract that was a record for a pitcher at the time. Four stints on the disabled list cost him roughly 34 starts.
Price never made an All-Star team or received even one Cy Young vote with the Red Sox. By those measures, the deal didn’t work out.
But Price was outstanding in the 2018 postseason, going 3-1 with a 3.46 ERA in six games. He surrendered one run over seven innings in the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Dodgers.
Without Price pitching as well as he did, the Sox almost surely don’t win that championship. In that sense, he delivered.
With Rick Porcello off to the Mets and Price now with the Dodgers, the Red Sox have a rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and probably a bunch of openers.
Brusdar Graterol, a 21-year-old obtained from the Twins as part of the deal, could figure into the rotation in time. I’d like to see the Sox give Darwinzon Hernandez another shot, too, instead of abandoning him to the bullpen.
Regardless of how it plays out, Price will be missed.
At 34, he appears set up for late-career success. Price throws five pitches, and there’s enough differential between his fastball (92.4 m.p.h.) and changeup (84.4 m.p.h.) to keep hitters off-balance.
He was 7-2 with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts last season before a cyst in his wrist limited his ability to throw off-speed and breaking pitches.
He allowed 20 earned runs over 19 innings in the five starts that followed. So his season ERA of 4.28 was deceptive.
Price had surgery to remove the cyst and had a normal offseason. The Dodgers will get a pitcher with a good chance to bounce back. Before the trade, he had been working out regularly at JetBlue Park and felt fine.
Price will love the National League. The big parks of the NL West will cut down on the number of hits he allows, and he will be adept at managing lineups that include the opposing pitcher.
He’s not much of a hitter (4 for 50 in his career), but Price likes being a baseball player, not just a pitcher, and will enjoy getting to the plate more than just a few times a year.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has the starter depth to use a six-man rotation from time to time and give Price extra days off. If he starts 25 games and works 135 innings, that’s all the Dodgers need.
The Dodgers are set up to win the World Series and give Price a second ring. He’s one of the clear-cut winners of this deal.
The Sox reportedly will pay off half of the $96 million Price has remaining on his contract, money that will count in luxury-tax calculations. But they are now free of the risk that Price breaks down.
They also avoid the complication of Price gaining the right to block any trades after this season when he gains his 10-5 rights.
It’s still an embarrassing trade for the Red Sox, who acted like a small-market team and let the Dodgers take advantage of them. That the Red Sox — the Red Sox! — gave up on a season before it started is a terrible look for the sport.
But Price won’t be around for the grisly aftermath. He took on Boston and came out clean on the other end.