We’ll start with the obvious: There is no way that the Toronto Blue Jays are better in 2016 than they would be if David Price was under contract to pitch for them and Mark Shapiro, and who ever he answers to, shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
But they don’t need to apologize.
Toronto remains a force to be reckoned with in the American League, and with two months to go until Spring Training, there is time and, presumably, some money left to shore up the pitching where needed.
Outgoing Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos wouldn’t have done it any differently.
Granted, there are no amount of mid-rotation starters or bullpen help that can be added to make up for having one of the best pitchers in the sport, in his prime, standing on the mound every fifth day – providing the guys doing the lifting the other four days can hold their own.
But 29 other teams – many of them believing they could win a World Series next year – looked at what it would take to sign Price and all of them came to the same conclusion: It wasn’t worth it.
The Boston Red Sox and their president Dave Dombrowski, decided it was. Just like Dombrowski figured breaking the bank to pay Justin Verlander $180 million and committing to pay Miguel Cabrera $248 million – including $32 million in 2023 when Cabrera turns 40 – was money well spent when he was running the Detroit Tigers.
Dombrowski was able to skip town before that bill came due. Who knows how long he’ll be in Boston.
But Shapiro just got to Toronto and, presumably, if the Blue Jays were ready to spend like the New York Yankees of old, he would have signed Price and papered over the consequences with more money later.
However, the Blue Jays aren’t and likely won’t ever spend wildly to win – even the Yankees don’t do that anymore.
For the Blue Jays this is a wise path: They don’t have the kind of contracts that set teams back for years lingering on their books.
Don’t forget that the Blue Jays first order of business on the long road back to respectability was ridding the franchise of deals like those given to Vernon Wells (seven years, $126 million) and Alex Rios (seven years, $70 million).
Not having Price will only matter if the Blue Jays can’t find a way to get back to the playoffs and a lack of starting pitching proves to be the issue.
There is no way to know that until the season plays it’s way out, and in the meantime you know that the Blue Jays don’t have a ticking time bomb of a contract ready to blow up whatever plans they may have for the future beyond 2016.
There were all kinds of reasons that the Blue Jays were the hottest team in baseball after Aug. 1, not to suggest the whole clubhouse didn’t feel like they were ten-feet tall and bulletproof when Price was 9-1 down the stretch with an ERA of 2.30.
Price not returning doesn’t mean the Blue Jays won’t return to the post-season. The Blue Jays were a caveman of a baseball team last summer, clubbing their prey into submission and all indications are that they will be in position to do the same thing next summer.
Even before Anthopoulous had the trade deadline to end all trade deadlines, the Blue Jays were a good team that was underachieving, at least based on its statistical profile.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Blue Jays expected win total for 2015 was 102. That they won just 93 games reflected an uneven first two months before the ship began to right itself in June when they went 19-9, setting the stage for the late summer makeover.
Losing 11 starts from one pitcher shouldn’t sink a team that has the best offence in baseball and one of the very best defences — even 11 David Price starts.
We’ll never know for sure if re-signing Price was even a realistic option for Toronto. The big lefty said all the right things when he was here and presumably would have signed back if the Blue Jays had wanted to outbid the $217 million that the Red Sox reportedly have agreed to pay him over the next seven years – which is $291 million Canadian at the current rate of exchange, it’s probably worth pointing out.
But without pretending that the Blue Jays are better off without him, it’s not all that much of stretch to be relieved he moved on.
Almost any amount of money would have made sense to sign Price for next season, but being on the hook to pay him $124 million after age 34 hardly makes any sense.
And if you believe that Anthopoulos would have paid that price for Price, then your read on the former Blue Jays general manager was clouded by one wild week in late July.
Every other transaction Anthopoulos ever made was the opposite of a deal like the one Price got from the Red Sox.
He didn’t mind long-term deals if he felt he was getting good value, see five years to Bautista at $13-million per year, and he understood you sometimes had to spend more than a player was worth, Mark Buehrle earned $49 million in his three seasons as a Blue Jay, but locking into a deal that he knew would be a Verlander or CC Sabathia albatross for the last four or five years?
There is no way that Anthopoulos would have done that deal, and it’s encouraging that Shapiro didn’t get sucked into it either.
Are the Blue Jays better without Price pitching for them in 2016? No, you can’t say that.
But you can’t say they’re worse, either. Not yet.