TORONTO – First, the caveat: if it was my money, I’d have offered David Price the same thing – seven years, $217 million, with a three-year opt out clause. I’d prefer five years, but, what the hell …
Of course, I also said all last winter that had I been in Alex Anthopoulos’ shoes, I would have signed free agent closer Andrew Miller (paid a premium if necessary) in addition to signing Russell Martin.
But, guess what? IT’S NOT MY MONEY! And, most importantly, even if it was and even if I’d offered it to Price, there is no guarantee he would take it and return to Toronto. I understand that the Toronto Blue Jays’ interest in re-signing Price is always going to be a matter of public skepticism; that there is a segment of the population that thinks even if the Blue Jays were given signs from Price’s agent about what it would take to re-sign him and didn’t like the terms, they should make an offer … well, just because, dammit! Truth is, I don’t even know if the Blue Jays needed Bo McKinnis to tell them what it would take: everybody’s been saying seven years and a minimum $25-$30 million pretty much from the start, no?
So here we are. Price is expected to be unveiled as a member of the Boston Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park; it’s like Tim Burton has grabbed your soul and gone all Nightmare Before Christmas with it. This doesn’t mean that the trade pulled off by Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays’ erstwhile general manager, should be seen in a different light. What happened this summer and fall was magic: Joe Carter’s ‘Touch ’em all’ met Jose Bautista’s bat flip; generations found something shared and a battle was rejoined, only this time an entire nation came along for the ride. Like you, I wish the best for Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. But I would gladly trade 10 years of each of them for Price’s starts all over again – at least, the regular-season starts.
No, our guy Alex did just fine at the trade deadline, thank you very much. That doesn’t change because Price went to the Red Sox; that’s not what the move means, and what it also doesn’t mean is:
Ownership is cheaping out; the end is here
Don’t be that person. If ownership was going to strip down they wouldn’t have offered Marco Estrada a qualifying offer and ended up signing him for $26 million over two years, let alone bring back J.A. Happ at three years, $36 million. I mean, we have first-hand evidence of what happens when this ownership decides to cut payroll; that was the winter of 2004, when the Blue Jays decided not to offer a contract to Carlos Delgado, allowing one of their best players in franchise history to leave as a free agent without compensation because they were terrified he’d accept their offer.
Delgado made $19.7 million in 2004, accounting for one-third of the Blue Jays’ payroll, and then-GM J.P. Ricciardi knew his payroll was going to be slashed to $45 million in 2005. Believe me: when this sucker gets stripped down, the warning sign will be something other than failing to match the biggest contract given to a pitcher.
The Jays can’t make the playoffs
Seriously, if this is how you feel then go watch hockey. I’ll take a starting rotation of Marcus Stroman, Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, R.A. Dickey and Happ over the rotation with which the Blue Jays started the season. Based on how they pitched last season, I’ll take a bullpen with Roberto Osuna as a closer and Brett Cecil – who knows, maybe Sanchez ends up here if the Jays swing another deal? – over what the Jays felt they had going into spring training. The lineup and defence is as good as it was at the end of the season and in the playoffs and with a fully healthy Troy Tulowitzki and motivated Bautista in his walk year, it might even be better. And unless I missed something, Price didn’t get an offer from the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays, either.
There is no point in ever falling in love with another player
Listen: I’m not a guy to buy a jersey with another dude’s name on the back, you know? But pro athletes are nothing more than super-charged, super-talented versions of the rest of us and like the rest of us, they’ll go where they can make as much money for as long as they can as quickly as they can. It’s magnetic, and given the choice of equivalent offers they will choose the place with the fewest impediments to daily life and, possibly, the lowest tax rate. Nothing wrong with that, although if I was David Price I’d rather be with the San Francisco Giants any day than play in the world’s largest outdoor urinal, Fenway Park, for the Red Sox. But I digress …
David Price lied to us
Hey, it’s your fault if you took Price’s Twitter happiness and all that housecoat and scooters for his teammates stuff as a sign that Price was going to take out Canadian citizenship. Price is one of those individuals blessed with the ability to appreciate the happiness of the here and now. He could pitch in hell and he’d be all: ‘Yeah, sure it’s hot … but damned they have great barbecue!’ For God’s sake, people: the guy would have signed with the Detroit Tigers last spring if they’d come to terms. Detroit! We’re not talking Johnny Broadway. As for the all the people who talked about how Price would come back to Toronto because it presented “the best chance to win,” well, I don’t know: if a team offers me $217 million over seven years, my guess is they’re pretty serious about trying to win, no?
So that’s what Price’s walking away doesn’t mean. What it does mean is:
The Blue Jays have a budget
Well … duh! The Blue Jays are a tiny part of a big, publicly traded company and that means that people answer to people who answer to a person who answers to more people. And as is usually the case with big companies, the mathematics aren’t always the way it is in your household. X tickets times Y price equals Z which automatically goes into payroll. Yeah, not in the real world, people – and, look! The bad, old, Rogers shill didn’t even mention the exchange rate! There is no salary cap in baseball, but – darn it – everybody has a budget. The Yankees have a budget. The Chicago Cubs have a budget. Teams also have a philosophy and sometimes it changes; that’s why the Yankees are trying to get younger; it’s why they didn’t trade Luis Severino at the deadline. In interviews such as the one he did with our Stephen Brunt, new Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Mark Shapiro sure seems to believe he wants to take another shot at the playoffs with this lineup – while seeing if he can prevent the team from getting too old all at once. Signing Price for seven years doesn’t jibe, and I get that.
There’s money for others
The Blue Jays owe $173 million guaranteed to Martin (through 2019) and Tulowitzki (through 2020) and will need to make a call at some point this season on whether to extend both or one of Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, neither of whom will play for a club-friendly sum as they have in the past three seasons. Plus … Josh Donaldson, anyone? His unique status as a late-bloomer with, probably, one, big kick at the free-agent can makes keeping him here for six or seven years a staggering financial proposition, one fraught with as many tough decisions for him as for the Blue Jays. He’ll get $12 million in salary arbitration this season, and is on the $20-million Express. I’d pay him before Price … but that’s just me.
Marcus Stroman better stay healthy … and pitching depth could be a concern
Let’s be clear: the only starting pitcher in the organization with even the faintest whiff of what makes Price what he is is Stroman, who in case you’d forgotten was scheduled to be the Blue Jays’ opening day starter in 2015 until that bloody fielding drill went awry. And let’s also be clear: the reason Jesse Chavez is here is that there isn’t one arm – not one – which finished the season at triple-A Buffalo that anybody wants to see break spring training with the big club. The Blue Jays have some outfield depth they might try to turn into an elite level, 20-something controllable arm, maybe in a counter-intuitive deal with Dickey as a throw-in for a team that thinks it has a shot at a wild-card spot. Plus, there’s the bullpen, which is in need of another power arm.
The Blue Jays are a weaker team now than when they went to the playoffs
The Red Sox will be prohibitive favourites to win the division. On balance, the Blue Jays are weaker because there’s a trickle-down effect with Price that might have even allowed Sanchez to stay in the bullpen. I mean, you got me there, OK? The winter is far from over, but right now the Red Sox are a dangerous, dangerous team with a strong and deep, young, core of position players and Craig Kimbrel closing and new president David Dombrowski running things – in a few weeks persuading an ownership group that swore they were done with $100-million contracts after the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval fiascos to give out the richest pitching contract in baseball history.
They’ll be everybody’s favourite to win the American League East, is my guess. Sort of like the Blue Jays in 2013. Now, if the Red Sox can just find a starter who can win for them in the playoffs ...